Vol.XXVI: Beethoven, Duet for Viola & Cello WoO32, Septet op.20*

Oleg Kagan (Violin/Viola), Gennadij Freidin* (Viola), Natalia Gutman (Cello), Sergei Akopov (Double Bass), Eduard Brunner (Clarinet), Padovan Vlatkovic (Horn), Valery Popov (Bassoon); Berlin 1982 & Moscow 1988*

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The E-flat Duo for violin and cello is something very special. From the opening bars you can sense the love and devotion invested in the piece, beyond suave, beyond sensuous, just, well – caressing. Like curling up with a favourite book, or conversation with a trusted friend, Kagan (viola) and Gutman (violoncello) give a performance that I shall turn to many times. The same can be said of the Septet for strings and winds, though it could not be a more different reading from my previous favourite on Teldec with the Berlin Soloists. This is again a very smooth, completely devotional reading that is a refreshing surprise – we don’t often hear Beethoven played in this manner, more like Schubert. Schubertian this music may be in many ways, but Beethoven is still Beethoven, and even the early works have a certain aggressiveness that few performers are inclined to avoid. This bunch does, and the results revolutionise what I have always considered to be a not-too-well-put-together work. If you like the classics played with a big warm bear-hug feeling and lots of sentiment, I urge you to try this.

American Record Guide 4/01

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