Instrumentalist - Cello
Tracing the Arc of Beethoven's Career in One Night
When the school year ends, Mannes College the New School for Music goes into summertime overdrive, offering a back-to-back series of specialized institutes with master classes, lecture demonstrations, seminars and public performances by both faculty members and students. The first is the Mannes Beethoven Institute, now in its eighth year, and in the opening faculty recital on Monday evening the cellist Colin Carr and the pianist Thomas Sauer, who directs the institute, played all five of Beethoven's cello sonatas.

These are not Beethoven's deepest works, but they touch on many of the same elements that make the piano sonatas, string quartets and symphonies so epochal. What makes them ideal for the opening night of a Beethoven institute is that they cover nearly the full scope of the composer's career -- with two scores composed in 1796; a more settled, middle-period work from 1808; and two more mature sonatas from 1815 -- yet can be accommodated in a single program.

Mr. Carr and Mr. Sauer clearly meant listeners to trace that arc. They performed the sonatas chronologically, and they subtly altered their pleasingly unified interpretive approach to account for the broadening of Beethoven's sensibility. The Sonatas in F and G minor (Op. 5, Nos. 1 and 2) exemplify the balance of stately formality and playfulness that animates so many of the early scores Beethoven wrote to impress prospective patrons. Mr. Carr and Mr. Sauer made them a bit more than that, focusing on moments of particular finesse to highlight the inventiveness of a transition or the rightness of a turn of phrase. And Mr. Carr painted his lines with a cello tone that varied from astringent to sumptuous, as the phrase demanded.

They played more expansively and assertively in the Sonata in A (Op. 69), and made the most of the lively dialogues and the introspective, soulful adagios that give the Sonatas in C and D (Op. 102, Nos. 1 and 2) an expressive range well beyond that of the earlier works. And in these last pieces, Mr. Carr rounded out what had been a sharp-edged sound early in the evening, almost as if he were using a more polished, streamlined tone to evoke Beethoven's later mastery.

Beethoven institutes are a lovely idea, and no doubt Mannes's students learn a lot. But what the school should offer is master classes in concert etiquette. At a moment in the G minor Sonata when Mr. Sauer was artfully demonstrating how dramatic the silence between chords can be, a cellphone rang. And in my immediate vicinity, no fewer than three institute students checked and responded to text messages during the performance; each, in fact, waited until the music had begun to illuminate her cellphone.
Allan Kozinn, New York Times
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