Most surveys of Beethoven’s cello music are normally accommodated on two discs. David Geringas and Ian Fountain however go one better than their rivals by supplementing the requisite numbered sonatas and variations with two comparative rarities: the composer’s resourceful cello transcription of the Horn Sonata and the six-movement Duo Sonata, Op. 64 based on the early E flat String Trio. Whether the latter was actually arranged by Beethoven still remains a matter of conjecture, but Geringas and Fountain seem totally committed to the work, delivering a wonderfully elegant account that emphasises the music’s strongly Mozartian features. Both players are equally enthralling in the Horn Sonata transcription, projecting a muscular view of the opening movement, bringing a delightful mock pathos to the brief Poco Adagio and imbuing the Rondo Finale with grace and humour.
There are some really outstanding performances throughout the rest of this beautifully recorded set. Particularly noteworthy are the vibrant rustic energy and joie de vivre of both Finales to the Op. 5 Sonatas, the boldly depicted contrasts of mood in the opening movement to Op. 102 No. 2, and Geringas’s phenomenally clear articulation of the tricky scalic passage work in the Finale to Op. 69. Less convincing is the slow introduction to the G minor Sonata which seems slightly understated, especially during the pregnant pauses that precede the Allegro molto. The opening movement of Op. 69 is also a bit inhibited warranting perhaps a more operatic approach to the melodic line and although the ensuing Scherzo has plenty of rhythmic dynamism, Geringas dispatches the double stops in the trio in a surprisingly perfunctory manner. Notwithstanding these caveats, these three discs offer compelling and insightful musicianship in a highly competitive field.