June 11, 2003
New York Times

“Immersed in the Dialogues of Beethoven”
by Jeremy Eichler

It must have been disappointing to the planners of the new concert series Free for All at Town Hall that even giving tickets away could not fill the 1,500-seat auditorium for either of their first two presentations this spring. But news of this worthy series seems to be spreading, and all the tickets for Sunday evening’s recital by the cellist David Finckel and the pianist Wu Han were snatched up in two hours that afternoon, organizers said.

The crowd seemed an enthusiastic mix of neophytes and chamber music regulars, and the casual introductions by Mr. Finckel and Wu Han had something for each: musical insights served up with witty banter, signposts for listening, and a few revealing words about why their repertory was essential to them as musicians.

And essential it was. The duo deserve credit for not watering down their program in the name of outreach. Instead, they empowered listeners with a nearly three-hour immersion in the complete Beethoven Cello Sonatas, with each work offered as a discrete window into the evolving styles of that composer’s early, middle and late periods.

Mr. Finckel and Wu Han gave eloquent and deeply committed performances. He played with a deep and burnished tone and she with a sparkling virtuosity. Best of all was how keenly they listened to each other, rendering this set of sonatas as, among other things, a vivid study in modes of Beethovian dialogue. It couldn’t hurt in this regard that the two players are married and, as Mr. Finckel joked from stage, well-rehearsed at completing each other’s sentences.

©2003 New York Times

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