Beethoven’s five sonatas for cello and piano are pieces about the art of conversation, about how instruments talk to each other. And though that’s pretty much the definition of chamber music, it applies to these sonatas with special force. Who talks and who listens? What tone of voice predominates? What’s the subject matter? In their Celebrity Series presentation of all five sonatas at Jordan Hall Sunday afternoon, cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han shared honors as they celebrated the composer’s many moods.
For Beethoven, these works were an evolving conversation: He wrote the first two in 1796, the third in 1808, and the last two in 1815. The first two were designed to show off the composer’s prowess at the piano; they’re really piano sonatas with cello accompaniment. In the last three, the cello speaks up for itself, but the piano is never less than an equal partner.