The Strad issue
Peter Martens (cello) Luis Magalhães (piano)
The marketing hook for this set lies in the artists’ reference to Czerny’s insights on performing Beethoven’s music, paying particular attention to the younger composer’s recommended metronome markings. Fervent adherence to these suggestions results in some unusual tempos. For example, the opening of op.5 no.2 is taken at a surprisingly quick speed given the Adagio marking. It certainly ensures that the sostenuto aspect of the music is maintained, although possibly at the expense of some poetry and expressive quality. Similarly the Adagio of op.102 no.2 flows rather briskly but loses some atmosphere and emotional intensity. In contrast the opening Andante of op.102 no.1 feels almost leisurely, thus creating a vivid contrast with the ensuing Allegro vivace.
Peter Martens delivers brilliantly incisive and spirited accounts of all these works and makes a particularly good case for the cello arrangement of the Horn Sonata op.17. Although both artists are well served by a clear recording, the piano timbre throughout is overtly bright which, given a sometimes hard-edged attack, reflects some of the timbral qualities of early pianofortes. A more serious problem is the balance, which far too frequently favours the piano. One really senses the cello struggling to come through the texture in the fugal finale of op.102 no.2. Equally I find some of the emotional aspects of the music a little diminished. The Rondo of op.5 no.2, although projected with brilliance, is far too serious and lacks playfulness.