Instrumentalist - Cello
Beethoven works inspire cellist
One of the greatest pleasures for a cellist is playing the music Beethoven wrote for that instrument. At least, that's how Colin Carr views it. "It's absolutely gratifying, no question about it," he told the Deseret Morning News in a phone interview from his home in Stonybrook, N.Y.

Carr was, of course, referring to the five cello sonatas Beethoven wrote between 1796 and 1815, works that span most of Beethoven's creative life. "I've already done eight or nine complete cycles this season, and I'm not bored of a single note."

Salt Lake audiences will receive the opportunity of hearing the five sonatas, as well as Beethoven's three sets of variations for cello and piano, when Carr and his accompanist of 15 years, Thomas Sauer, come to Libby Gardner Concert Hall this week.

The works will be split into two concerts on Tuesday and Thursday. "It's better this way rather than performing them in one gargantuan concert -- it's also easier for the cellist," Carr quipped.

Carr has previously played in Salt Lake City as part of the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio and as a member of Sequenza, the trio's successor. This will be his first solo appearance locally, and he said that he's looking forward to returning. "I'm excited to be coming and doing this program."

Explaining why he finds the cello sonatas so satisfying, Carr said the answer lies in the details. "If one attends to the details in each of the works, it gives back to you. It's so amazingly rewarding."

The sonatas are groundbreaking works, Carr said. Bridging the classical and romantic eras, Beethoven developed and expanded on the classical symphony, concerto and string quartet forms. He also ventured into new territory that was largely left unexplored by Haydn and Mozart. It's into this latter category that the five cello sonatas fall. "These are true duos for cello and piano," Carr said. "And that hadn't been done before."

Looking at them closely, one can see how Beethoven refined the medium as he developed and matured as a composer. "In the two op. 5 sonatas (from 1796, when Beethoven was 26), the piano is still the leader," Carr said. "But in the A major, op. 69, Sonata and the last two, op. 102, the two instruments are equal partners."

The sonatas are "substantial," Carr said, "but they're not like the 'Hammerklavier' Sonata in weightiness and gravity. One thinks of Beethoven as a titanic sort of composer, but in the cello sonatas that doesn't come to mind."

In a totally different vein are the three sets of variations. And Carr likes to include them in the cycle for a specific reason. "The variations serve a function when playing the cycle. They bring lightness and relief to the concerts."

This is the first year that Carr and Sauer have been playing the sonatas as a complete cycle. "I've never fully appreciated before how different they are from one another," Carr said. "There are quite a few similarities and differences among them -- especially differences -- but comparing them to each other would be like comparing apples to oranges.

"Take the op. 69. It is utterly beautiful. It's melodic, lyrical, gorgeous. And one can appreciate it for that. But one appreciates the two sonatas of op. 102 for something entirely different. The slow movement of the Fifth Sonata is sublime. It has a melancholic beauty about it that is indescribable."

Even though Carr has played most of the sonatas his entire career, there was one that he promised himself he wouldn't learn until later in life. That was the No. 5 in D major, op. 102. "I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't play it until I was older." Not because he wasn't up to the challenges the work presents the cellists, but because "I wanted to have something to savor. It's great to have something to look forward to."

It wasn't until five years ago that Carr finally began working on the Fifth. "I was 45 at the time, and I felt that I was ready to play it. There was no defining moment for me to take it up, but I realized I was ready."
Edward Reichel, Deseret Morning News
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