On this summer Saturday, our house was packed with members who came to enjoy a Beethoven themed evening. Pianist Alexei Grynyuk and Cellist Leonard Elschenbroich gave a truly stunning and memorable performance. These two young musicians, gifted with talent and musicality, armed with technical skills and artistic expression, played four of five of the Sonatas composed by Beethoven.  They did not hesitate to use all their energy and share their interpretation of Beethoven.

Both Alexei and Leonard possess amazing technique.  I'm sure it comes from total dedication and years of practice, but it was also so amazing to see and hear that talent up close.

I just loved the gorgeous sounds produced by Leonard"s 320 year-old cello.  There were many colours and tones, but I especially liked the low notes, which were deep and earth-shaking.  Also I enjoyed watching how Leonard manipulated the instrument: staccato, pizzicato, legato, harmonics, trills, double stops, etc., etc.  It was like fabulous magic!  Alexei"s piano playing was wonderful as always '“ I like his solo playing very much, but accompanying another instrument showed his marvelous skills as well.   His sensitive approach to the pieces produced the most pure and beautiful sounds.  In many places his fingers barely touch the keys '“ it looked as if he was just tickling them '“ and the result was amazing sensitive and subtle sounds.

This program of four Sonatas was truly long.  The first half, Sonatas No. 1 and No. 2, was nearly one hour.   These Sonatas have structural similarity; both have two movements, and both first movements start out slow (Adagio) and turn into faster pace (Allegro) while both second movements are Rondos. The pair expressed the dynamic contrast and the change from slow to fast tempo in the 1st movements very effectively.  I enjoyed both of 2nd movements '“ such jolly, light and cute pieces though at times they also required power and strength.  The beginning of the 2nd movement to No. 1 Sonata made me want to skip for joy!  The 2nd movement to No. 2 Sonata starts with a piano solo, which I loved.  For both the Rondos, the melodies were tossed between the two instruments, and Alexei and Leonard did this so very naturally and beautifully.

The second half was Sonatas No. 4 and No. 5 (in a change from the original programme which was No. 3 and No. 4).  Sonata No. 5 consists of three movements, and its 2nd movement is the only slow movement of all the Sonatas. The beginning, with such a sad melody on the cello accompanied by dark and serene chords of the piano was breath-taking.  The balance between the two instruments was consistent all the way through, supporting, caring and uniting with each other, and creating such gorgeous music.  I liked everything about this movement, and the transition into the next movement.

One of the most significant advantages of a small venue such as ours is that you can really feel and "witness" real music making by the performers.  Saturday was no exception - not only could we hear the sounds coming out of their instruments, but we could also hear their breathing, humming and even groaning!  We could also see how deeply they were engaged in their music.

It was our first time to invite a cello & piano duo.  I am totally convinced that it was a huge success.  Even after they completed their long and exhausting performance, we could not leave them alone.  The audiences" clapping and applauding did not stop until they agreed to play some more!  They had to repeat one of the movements, the 2nd movement of No. 1 Sonata; according to Leonard, 'œit was already a long programme, and this is the shortest'.  They were pushed onto stage before agreeing which piece to play, so Alexei had to sing the introduction to Leonard to make sure they were playing the same piece!  We enjoyed their performance until the end '“ and it was already passed 10 pm.

Members often ask me how I managed to bring in such super-quality musicians '“ well, thank you for asking, I will keep trying my best!   My biggest thanks to Alexei and Leonard!!

Beethoven Sonata Programme

  • Sonata No 1 in F major, Op 5 No 1
  • Sonata No 2 in G minor, Op 5 No 2
  • Sonata No 3 in A major, Op 69
  • Sonata No 5 in D major, Op 102 No 2