Beethoven Complete Sonatas & Variations (Double Album) (2005)


Pieter Wispelwey, Dejan Lazic

1792 is a magical date in the history of Vienna. In that year, a young and talented artist, only 22 years old, arrived from Bonn: Ludwig van Beethoven. “Perhaps he will be able to fill the tremendous void left here by Mozart’s death last year,” some people must have thought.

But eyewitness accounts of Beethoven’s first performances tell us that he received only mixed reactions from the Viennese audiences. They admired his innovative sonorities and amazing improvisations, but were more shocked than pleased by the unrestrained, even hectoring quality of his compositions. No, most of the Viennese greeted this new music with incomprehension. Too blunt, too unconventional, too wild, too assertive. “It cannot be denied that this gentleman goes his own way. But what a strange and laborious way it is. Not a trace of melody, everything sounds like a struggle. There is a constant seeking after strange modulations, unpleasant combinations, and a heaping-up of difficulties so that one loses not only all one’s patience but any possibility of enjoyment.”

Beethoven’s dry response: “They understand nothing.” His time had not yet come. Beethoven, of course was eagerly breaking new ground. That was no less true with the sonatas for cello and piano. In the ten sonatas for violin and piano, Beethoven could look back on an established tradition, and the violin was completely familiar as a virtuoso instrument. The cello, too, had assumed the same role by the end of the 18th century, thanks to barnstorming cellists like Duport, Bréval, Boccherini, and Anton Kraft.

Beethoven was 26 years old when he dedicated his Sonatas op. 5 for cello and piano to King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia. Seven years earlier, Mozart had visited the ruler in Potsdam. Beethoven allowed himself a large measure of freedom in the formal design of these works: for example, in the Sonata op. 5 nr. 2, an expansive Adagio gradually introduces a fast movement, which is followed by another fast movement that concludes the work.

From the very beginning it is clear that Beethoven has a dramatic plan in mind for this sonata. Mood and atmosphere are gloomy, searching, and full of foreboding. Cello and piano carry on a dialogue which suggests that they are planning a complete symphony together. And that ‘symphony’ concerns a world of shadows. Not until the last movement does a kind of dawn appear, and the nightly cares seem to be forgotten. A pleasing balance is established between the instruments. The piano, for Beethoven, remains the typical virtuoso instrument, but it does so without impeding the cello or reducing it to the status of a mere accompanist.

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Pieter Wispelwey

Pieter was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands in 1962 and grew up with his two younger brothers in Santpoort, where his parents still live. At the age of 19 he moved to Amsterdam and has remained in the same 17th century house on the Noordermarkt ever since. Pieter's diverse musical personality is rooted in the training he received-firstly from regular exposure from a very early age to his father's amateur string quartet when they rehearsed at the Wispelwey home, to lessons with Dicky Boeke and Anner Bylsma in Amsterdam followed by studies with Paul Katz in the USA and William Pleeth in the UK. It was also Dicky Boeke who encouraged him to listen to as much music as possible but particularly sowed the seeds for his love of Renaissance music (Italian and English madrigalists!) and German Lied. These genres, particularly the performances of Dietrich Fischer Diskau, have been a constant source of inspiration for Pieter. In 1990 his first recording with Channel Classics, The Bach Cello Suites, was released to great acclaim and in 1992 he was the first cellist ever to receive the Netherlands Music Prize, which is endowed upon the most promising young musician in the Netherlands; thus his path was secured to the busy and varied career he has today.

Pieter has always been at home on the modern cello with metal and/or gut strings as he is on the baroque 4 string and 5 string cello. Therefore he covers a repertoire from JS Bach to Elliott Carter drawing on a palett of sounds and colours available from his range of instruments, string set-ups and bows. Having grown up in an age and country where hearing period instruments was very much the norm for concert-goers, Pieter naturally developed his conviction that, in the right conditions, much 18th and 19th century music sounds far better on gut strings than on metal. However he is not a purist in the sense that if conditions are less than ideal (no fortepiano, too big a hall, too hot, too humid, too dry acoustically etc.) then he is more than happy to pick up his modern cello with metal strings (which therefor is quite often the case).

Recitals have always played a major part in Pieter's concert diary. As a recitalist with piano, he has all the main repertoire at his disposal which is always ready for performance, often at very short notice. He is not, and has never been, the type of soloist who tours the world with one or two recital programmes and a couple of concertos per season. On the contrary, a typical week in Pieter's life (if one can be said to exist) could well include the Bach suites, with perhaps 2 different recital programmes, a couple of concerto appearances with a student masterclass thrown in for good measure! He has appeared as recitalist all over the world including the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Wigmore Hall (London), Chatelet (Paris), Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires) and Sydney Opera House. Future exciting engagements include Bach and Britten suites at the Lincoln Centre, New York and a return visit to the Edinburgh Festival.

Pieter has appeared with a variety of orchestras and ensembles both with and without conductors. Notable projects without conductors have been the touring and recording of the Schumann and Shostakovich cello concertos with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. This orchestra has, without doubt, provided for Pieter the happiest and most satisfying musical collaborations of his career to date, not least due to the genius of leader and musical director, Richard Tognetti. He has also appeared, with conductor, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC symphony orchestra, the Russian National Symphony, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen to name but a few and has recorded with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. Future engagements with orchestras include the Halle, the Japan Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Herbert Blomstedt and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Marc Minkowsky.

Dejan Lazic

Pianist and composer Dejan Lazic was born into a musical family in Zagreb, Croatia, and grew up in Salzburg, Austria, where he studied at the Mozarteum. He is quickly establishing a reputation worldwide as “a brilliant pianist and a gifted musician full of ideas and able to project them persuasively” (Gramophone). The New York Times hailed his performance as “... full of poetic, shapely phrasing and vivid dynamic effects that made this music sound fresh, spontaneous and impassioned”. After a highly successful Edinburgh Festival recital, The Scotsman wrote recently: "Dejan Lazic shines like a new star!"

As recitalist and soloist with orchestra Dejan Lazic has appeared at major venues in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia, and has been invited to numerous international festivals, including the world-famous BBC Proms in summer 2011.

In Spring 2008 he gave his orchestral debuts at New York’s Lincoln Center with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer and at London’s Royal Festival Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Kirill Petrenko. He also gave highly successful recital debuts at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, London Queen Elizabeth Hall, Munich Prinzregententheater, Washington Kennedy Center, in Montreal, Tokyo, Beijing and in Istanbul. In Summer 2008 he performed Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto at the Beijing Great Hall of People in a televised pre-olympic gala concert for an audience of 7,000.

He also performed very successfully with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Giovanni Antonini, Atlanta and Seattle Symphonies under Robert Spano, Swedish Radio, Danish National, Indianapolis, and Sapporo Symphonies, as well as with the Seoul, Hong Kong, and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras. In Winter 2010 he toured Spain with Bamberger Symphoniker under Jonathan Nott.

Other orchestral engagements lead him to the BBC Symphony in London, BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Glasgow and Edinburgh, SWR Symphony in Stuttgart, MDR Symphony in Leipzig, Residentie Orkest in The Hague, Helsinki Philharmonic, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Orquesta Ciudad de Barcelona, and Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo. With Basel Chamber Orchestra and Giovanni Antonini he performs on tour, among others, at the Vienna Konzerthaus, Munich Herkulessaal, Cologne Philharmonie, and Brussels Palais des Beaux Arts. From 2008/09 season Dejan Lazic is “Artist in Residence” with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra in Amsterdam.

He also enjoys a growing following in the Far East to where he returned last season for a tour with NHK Symphony Orchestra. Other engagements there include those with Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra (including concerts at Tokyo's Suntory Hall & Metropolitan Art Space), Sapporo Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, NSO Taiwan, as well as a series of recitals throughout Japan and at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, China.

In November 2009 he toured Australia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra led by Richard Tognetti, including concerts at the world famous Sydney Opera House. In 2010/11 season he toured Europe, South America, and Asia with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer.

Alongside his solo career Dejan Lazic is also a passionate chamber musician.

He records exclusively for Channel Classics and has released a dozen of recordings so far. The 1st volume of his new "Liaisons" series with works by Scarlatti and Bartók was released in 2007 to great critical acclaim; the 2nd volume with a Schumann/Brahms programme was released in 2009, the 3rd volume with a C.P.E. Bach/Britten programme was released in 2011. In Fall 2008 he released a CD with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Kirill Petrenko playing Rachmaninov's famous 2nd Piano Concerto - a live recording that has earned rave reviews from critics and audiences worldwide and in addition it won the prestigious German Echo Klassik Award 2009. In February 2011 he released a disc featuring Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto which was recorded live in Sydney with the Australian Chamber Orchestra led by Richard Tognetti.

Dejan Lazic is also active as a composer. His works include various piano compositions, chamber music (including String Quartet op. 9, written for Mstislav Rostropovich's 70th birthday gala), and orchestral works, as well as Cadenzas for Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven Piano Concertos. In 2007/08 season he premiered his piano cycle "Kinderszenen – Hommage à Schumann" op. 15 at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

His recent arrangement of Brahms’s Violin Concerto for piano and orchestra saw its World Premiere on October 1, 2009 in Atlanta, USA, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under their music director Robert Spano. This concert was also recorded live by Channel Classics and the CD was released in January 2010 to great critical acclaim.

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Beethoven Complete Sonatas & Variations (Double Album) (2005)


Pieter Wispelwey, Dejan Lazic

    Classics Today -

These works have been well served on disc. This set certainly belongs among the great ones, and it offers sonics of breathtaking naturalness and realism. Pieter Wispelwey and Dejan Lazic work exceptionally well together. Two strong-willed artists, everything that they do serves the music, not least in the three sets of variations, which are chock-full of personality and clear delight in Beethoven's early compositional virtuosity (the set based on Handel's "See the conqu'ring hero comes" is especially impressive). In the two early sonatas, with their curiously structured slow-fast-fast form, Lazic and Wispelwey take care to differentiate the two successive quick movements in terms of both tempo and character so as to maximize each work's scheme of contrasts. In Op. 69 it's wonderful to hear how much drama they bring to the long opening movement, with vivid dynamic contrasts that at the same time never compromise the music's basic pulse. Listen to how sensitive Lazic is to the need to back off in the exposition's triplet theme so that the low notes of the cello don't get buried. Or consider the duo's magnificently moving realization of Beethoven's "con molto sentimento d'affetto" designation in the adagio of Op. 102 No. 2. This is great playing by any standard, made all the more enticing by Channel Classics' state-of-the-art sonics both in stereo or 5.0 multichannel surround formats. Discrete microphone placement never distorts the ideal balances that the players bring to their music-making, but at the same time, particularly in DSD Multichannel Sound, the performances have a vividness and three-dimensionality that sounds positively uncanny at times. A magnificent achievement on all fronts.

David Hurwitz

    AllMusic -

How good is Pieter Wispelwey and Dejan Lazic's 2005 recording of Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano? Easily as good as it gets. Wispelwey has a subtle tone, a full sound, and a flawless technique coupled with keen musical intelligence and a wonderfully soulful expressivity. Nothing in Beethoven's music is beyond him, not the technical difficulties, not the emotional depths, not the spiritual heights, not even the side-splitting humor. Wispelwey tears into the central Allegro molto piú tosto presto from the early G minor Sonata, rips into the Scherzo of the central A major Sonata, probes the depths of the Adagio con molto sentimento d'affeto in the late D major Sonata, and laughs all the way to the final double bar in the Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen Variations. With Dejan Lazic's virtuosic but circumspect accompaniment, Wispelwey's performances should be heard by anyone who loves Beethoven's cello works or simply brilliant and spirited playing. Channel Classics' sound is clear, warm, and real.

James Leonard[read full review]

Beethoven Complete Sonatas & Variations (Double Album) (2005)


Pieter Wispelwey, Dejan Lazic

Digital Converters: Grimm Audio AD1, EMM Labs Meitner ADC-8
Editing Software: Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Mastering Engineer: C. Jared Sacks
Microphones: Bruel & Kjaer 4006, Schoeps

This is the first recording made with Grimm's AD1 converter.

Producer: C. Jared Sacks
Recording Engineer: C. Jared Sacks
Recording location: December 2004, Muziekcentrum Frits Philips, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD 64
Speakers: Audio Lab, Holland
Violoncello: 1760, by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini

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Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5 No. 1 - I. Adagio sostenuto
00:03:16   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5 No. 1 - II. Allegro
00:10:52   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5 No. 1 - III. Rondo Allegro vivace
00:06:52   N/A
Beethoven Twelve Variations in F Major Op. 66 - Theme and Variations Nos. 1 - 12
00:10:00   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2 - I. Adagio sostenuto ed espressivo
00:05:53   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2 - II. Allegro molto piu tosto presto
00:07:24   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2 - III. Rondo Allegro
00:08:45   N/A
Beethoven Twelve Variations in G Major WoO 45 - Theme and Variations Nos. 1 - 12
00:12:00   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69 - I. Allegro ma non tanto
00:12:43   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69 - II. Scherzo Allegro molto
00:04:43   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69 - III. Adagio cantabile
00:01:41   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69 - IV. Allegro vivace
00:06:27   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102 No. 1 - I. Andante
00:02:39   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102 No. 1 - II. Vivace
00:05:00   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102 No. 1 - III. Adagio
00:02:48   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102 No. 1 - IV. Allegro vivace
00:04:09   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102 No. 2 - I. Allegro con brio
00:06:49   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102 No. 2 - II. Adagio con molto sentimento d'affetto
00:08:19   N/A
Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102 No. 2 - III. Allegro fugato
00:04:16   N/A
Beethoven Seven Variations in E-Flat Major WoO. 46 - Theme and Variations Nos. 1 - 7
00:09:26   N/A

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