Beethoven never seems to go out of style. His works are recorded repeatedly, even those less popular. Unlike the violin or piano sonatas, cello sonatas don't have the same melodic sweep or as many riveting passages. Still, their contemplative character yields a number of quieter satisfactions.
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein and cellist Zuill Bailey each have built highly praised individual careers (both have appeared several times in the Triangle). They've also been performing chamber music together for more than a decade, one of their first projects being these cello sonatas.
The duo's long association affords them great confidence and precision here. Dinnerstein's clean, clear technique impresses throughout, especially her fleet fingering in the last movement of Sonata No. 3. Bailey offers a plump, rounded sound, richly filling the atmosphere of this closely miked but aurally spacious recording, the moving first movement of Sonata No. 4 a prime example.
The pair's cool, intellectual approach eschews overt romanticism, emphasizing tightly sprung rhythms and sudden dynamic changes. Some of the dazzling tempos seem more for show than interpretation, and the precision can lean toward the mechanical. Some may prefer the warmer, more relaxed ways of Richter/Rostropovich or Ax/Ma, but this grandly conceived view provides a viable alternative.
Roy C. Dicks