Numerous composers have been humbled by Beethoven, looking on his music with awe at the complexity and craftsmanship with which it is put together. The cleaver way he takes small elements (sometimes only two and three notes) and creates entire sonatas which never sound overtly repetitive, often running the full gambit of emotions, yet also are not filled with so many ideas as to get overwhelmed by the immensity of material – all because these initial small elements, these motives are the core in which everything in the piece is built. Performers strive to master his music because of the craft and skill in which he incorporates all the elements of music in such a concise manner.
With the latest album by Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein, Beethoven: Complete Works for Piano and Cello, we get to journey through not just one or two sonatas for Cello and Piano, but his complete collection of music for these instruments which cover the entire span of his life. As Daniel Felsenfeld says in the liner notes, “(Beethoven’s) musical trajectory in the micro is often used as a stand-in for the development of Western Music in the Macro. What he did, the world did. He just did it better.” By compiling these works into a two CD collection (with the addition of variations Beethoven wrote on other composer’s themes) we get more than a glimpse at some amazing music, we get taken on a journey through the best of Western Music.
“Beethoven’s masterpieces for piano and cello represent arguably the greatest evolution of musical composition by one of the world’s most remarkable and creative minds.” – Zuill Bailey
On this CD there are moments of extreme virtuosity requiring blistering skill and speed, tender moments of lush melody, angular arguments with harsh harmonic development, and complex counterpoint segments weaving two, three and four lines together with flawless dexterity. All of this and Beethoven manages to keep it all completely musical. Never does the music wander so far that we feel lost, and yet the journey encompasses the full range of musical expression. Beethoven’s music in not something one approaches lightly; it must be meticulously mulled over, scrutinized and played until it is possible to bring together all the pieces in their proper order.
“It is music we’ve lived with, mulled over, considered and reconsidered. Committing our interpretation to disc is a milestone in our ongoing journey together.” – Simone Dinnerstein
This is supposed to be a review about the CD and as such I would like to comment about the individual skill of either Zuill Bailey or Simone Dinnerstein. They have been performing together for ten years with this project a culmination of their time together. However, Beethoven’s music is so intricately crafted it is impossible to separate out one moment, one element without omitting another equally important ingredient. Perhaps this is a testament to the skill of these two performers; the musical duet of their performances is so perfectly in-touch with the cunning of Beethoven’s music, it is impossible to highlight one without diminishing the other. If Beethoven’s music is the pinnacle of Western Music, than Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein’s Beethoven: Complete Works for Piano and Cello is the example of perfection in performance.