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Ghost Canyon

Title - The Conquering Hero
Artist - Jennifer Kloetzel & Robert Koenig

For those unaware, Jennifer Kloetzel’s lifelong journey with Beethoven began early: she was eight years old when her teacher placed the composer’s second cello sonata on her music stand, opening the door to an odyssey of intrigue and, ultimately, obsession with the composer’s music.

Since then, rarely has a day passed without Beethoven being a part of Jennifer’s life. She has studied and performed all of the composer’s duos and trios.

As founding cellist of the Cypress String Quartet, she spent 20 years rehearsing, performing and recording the string quartets.The Conquering Hero (3CD) even though views vary as to what comprises Beethoven’s “complete” works for cello and piano.

Jennifer’s discerning choice includes the five Sonatas for Cello and Piano, three sets of variations – based on arias from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus – and the Horn sonata for which the composer also wrote a cello part.

As you could expect, Jennifer spares no attention to detail across the entire spectrum of this significant recording project. Her performing partner Robert Koenig playing on a 19th century Blüthner concert grand piano.

CD 1:
12 Variations WoO 45 for cello and piano
Sonata for Piano and Cello No.1 in F Op.5 No.1
Sonata for Piano and Cello No.2 in G minor Op.5 No.2

CD 2:
12 Variations Op.66 for cello and piano
Sonata for Piano with Horn or Cello in F Op.17
7 Variations WoO 46 for cello and piano

CD 3:
Sonata for Piano and Cello No.3 in A Op.69
Sonata for Piano and Cello No.4 in C Op.102 No.1
Sonata for Piano and Cello No.5 in D Op.102 No.2

This simply magnificent, opulent and practically orchestrally translucent recording opens with the free flowing majesties within 12 Variations WoO 45 for cello and piano, on “See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, and which runs just over thirteen minutes.

Next up are the two Sonata’s for Piano and Cello, No.1 in F Op.5 No.1 first unveiling the lushly orchestrated, gently fervent I. Adagio sostenuto – Allegro and the slightly sterner II. Rondo: Allegro vivace (coming in at about 26 minutes for the pair), No. 2 opening on the flourishing grandeur of I. Adagio sostenuto ed espressivo – Allegro molto più tosto presto, and then we get the sweeping, ball room twirl of II. Rondo: Allegro (these coming in at about 30 minutes the pair).

The second CD opens with the delicately playful 12 Variations Op.66 for cello and piano on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and then a most delicious trilogy within the strident Sonata for Piano with Horn or Cello in F Op.17, the yearning ache of I. Allegro moderato, the short, but sweet II. Poco adagio, and then we get the blossoming III. Rondo: Allegro moto; this disc rounding out on the vibrantly perky, ten minute 7 Variations WoO 46 for cello and piano on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

The third and final CD opens on the simply wondrous Sonata for Piano and Cello No.3 in A Op.69, first bringing us the achingly ornate I. Allegro ma non tanto, then the rather more sprightly II. Scherzo: Allegro molto, culminating in the cautious growth found within the melodies of III. Adagio cantabile – Allegro vivace (coming in at thirty minutes or so).

Next up is the precisely sculptured Sonata for Piano and Cello No.4 in C Op.102 No.1 which first features the dominate, forthright playing found within I. Andante – Allegro vivace and then comes the more airy, gay and freeing II. Adagio – Tempo d’Andante – Allegro vivace (both at about 15 minutes the pair), the CD, and thusly the recording coming to a close on the heavenly Sonata for Piano and Cello No.5 in D Op.102 No.2; with the deep overtones of I. Allegro con brio leading the way, then comes the carefully strict, yet always flexible II. Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto, finally culminating in the euphoric III. Allegro – Allegro fugato (the trio coming in at about 23 minutes).

The illuminating liner notes are penned by Beethoven scholar William Meredith who boldly states, “if there were only the five cello sonatas of Beethoven left of all his music, these alone would have cemented his place in history.”

The recording was made in the stellar acoustic of Skywalker Sound. The 3-album set is lavishly packaged in a deluxe digipack. The title track, The Conquering Hero – from the opening set of variations from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus – evokes everything for Jennifer about Beethoven’s music, coming from a place of triumph and joy.

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