Beethoven: The Music for Piano & Cello
I first became interested in historical keyboards as a piano student in Boston in the 1970’s. Boston was then, and is still, an early music centre, and I had frequent opportunities to hear renaissance and baroque ensembles in concert. I eventually decided to take some harpsichord lessons with Robert Hill, freshly returned from Amsterdam where he had been studying with Gustav Leonhardt. The first early piano I encountered was one that Robert’s brother Keith built and brought to Boston. My first reaction after playing a few passages was “Ah! Beethoven’s cello sonatas!” I had been struggling with the G minor sonata, and it became obvious to me that the brilliant passagework for the piano—which drowns out the cello unless played mp instead of ff as Beethoven indicates—would work perfectly if only I had a piano like this… That finally happened in 1987, when I began doctoral studies with Malcolm Bilson at Cornell University. Since then I have had the rare privilege—with excellent instruments and fabulous colleagues—of rediscovering the monuments of Classical chamber music (sonatas and trios of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven) in historical style.
I first met Jaap ter Linden at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague in 2002. I was visiting European Early Music departments on my sabbatical leave from Oberlin, looking for places for our students to continue their studies after graduation. At the same time, Jaap and his violinist colleague Elizabeth Wallfisch were looking for a fortepianist with whom to play trios. And so the Oberlin Fortepiano Trio was born. Some of the most rewarding hours of my life were spent with those two, working on the great trios by Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn.
Finally, it has been both an honour and a delight for me that both of these players approached me with the idea of recording the Beethoven sonatas for their respective instruments. It’s been a great journey. David Breitman