Natalie Clein and Marianna Shirinyan
October 11 2018
Review: William Ruff
Natalie Clein scaling the peaks of the cello repertoire
I know it’s a tad unlikely, but just suppose you only had a couple of hours or so to spare and your life depended on hearing how Beethoven changed the face of western music. You couldn’t do better than listen to his music for cello and piano, spanning as it does every stage in the composer’s development.
A capacity audience gathered at Lakeside on Thursday to hear cellist Natalie Clein and pianist Marianna Shirinyan perform the bulk of these pieces before jetting off to take Beethoven to Mexico. But if there was any pre-flight stress it certainly didn’t dampen the sense of irresistible delight which they brought to their performances.
The first half of their programme sandwiched the charming Variations on Bei Männern from Mozart’s Magic Flute between Beethoven’s two Op. 102 sonatas.
Even today there is the feeling of climbing into an unknown region with these works. In the second, which opened the concert, Natalie and Marianna made the music seem new-minted, especially the richly expressive adagio and the ingenious concluding double fugue.
In Op. 102 No 1 it’s the unusual structure which still startles today and here the two performers relished the sudden shifts of mood, from ethereal lyricism to urgent march rhythms.
In the second half there was, at least in Natalie Clein’s opinion, possibly the greatest sonata ever written for two instruments: Op. 69 in A major. And there was no doubt about her and Marianna’s conviction.
This sonata was a huge breakthrough for Beethoven, for the first time writing for cello and piano as equal partners, mutually exchanging melodies, two voices woven together into one glorious whole. Amongst the highlights of their outstanding performance were the deft, syncopated scherzo and the yearning, slow interlude which dissolved magically into a high-spirited, life-affirming finale.
Natalie Clein (cello) and Marianna Shirinyan (piano)