Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax play with hope amid tears

Sony Classical is releasing Hope Amid Tearsa recording of Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano. In the album Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax play all five of Beethoven’s  sonatas for cello and piano in addition to three sets of variations for cello and piano.

In 1809 Beethoven sent a copy of a recently-completed sonata to his friend Ignaz von Gleichenstein with the note in Latin “Inter lacrimas et luctum” (“Amid tears and grief”), an oblique commentary on the state of Vienna in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, a time that coincided with Beethoven’s despondency over his worsening deafness and his despair over his personal life.

Emanuel Ax writes:  “His mastery of musical craft was second to none, of course, but it is his indomitable spirit in the face of personal tragedy that makes him unique. In this period of world-wide unease, grief, and suffering, it is perhaps fitting that we are also celebrating the 250th birthday of the composer who represents what is best in our humanity.”

The album includes the Sonata No.1 in F Major, Op. 5 No. 1; the Sonata No.2 in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2; the Sonata No.3 in A Major, Op. 69; the Sonata No.4 in C Major, Op. 102 No.1; the Sonata No.5 in D Major, Op. 102 No. 2; the 7 Variations on “Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen”; the 12 Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus;  and the 12 Variations in F major on “Ein Madchen oder Weibchen.”

It is well known how Beethoven can traverse changing moods that fluctuate from the meditative to the melancholy to the joyful to the contemplative to the achingly sad to music in which sudden gleams of hope are tinged with joy.

Even more remarkable it is to hear two towering artists capable to penetrate the depths of this music and then share it with the listener without a hint of grandstanding or egotism. Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax give us in this remarkable recording a heartfelt and insightful interpretation of several works by Beethoven at a time when music this noble is very much needed.

Rafael de Acha        ALL ABOUT THE ARTS