The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Warts-and-all recordings of cello classics
Musicians: Sietse-Jan Weijenberg (cello) Yun-Yang Lee (piano)
Composer: Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff

If you like your recordings immediate and exciting and don’t care too much about the odd imperfection, then this disc is worth a try. Young Dutch cellist Weijenberg, fourth prizewinner in the 2009 Rostropovich Competition, gives a real emotional roller coaster of a reading of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata. Intensely felt rubato in the first movement lends the cello’s extended notes a feeling of infinite space, while the Andante is played with convincing passion. Weijenberg, who studied in Gröningen and Paris, plays a 1707 Joseph Guarneri cello, with a vibrant, rich tone that adds to the exhilarating opening to the finale.

Unusually, the booklet gives equal space to the recording equipment and notes on the works themselves. In an effort to bring a more realistic sound, the recording was made with analogue tape in a natural acoustic setting, with each movement recorded in a single take and no subsequent enhancement.

Beethoven’s op.69 Sonata fares less well from this warts-and-all approach. Despite plenty of excellent playing – decisive phrasing in the opening movement in particular – the vagaries of intonation in the Adagio cantabile are grating, as are moments where the ensemble and phrase endings are less than immaculate.