In a complete works edition you get the sonatas and also the variations, all of which make for a vivid evening of music. Like perhaps many I started with the Pablo Casals versions, added on the Rostropovich, and now have appreciated some of the more modern recordings. Today's seems close to ideal. Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexander Melnikov teamed with Isabelle Faust to give us an exemplary recording of Beethoven's Piano Trios (see the February 17, 2014 post on this blog) and now quite logically and satisfyingly the two return for the cello-piano sonatas (Harmonia Mundi 902183.84).
Queyras is a jewel in the Harmonia Mundi pantheon, with a beautiful personal tone and impeccable musicality. Melnikov is a formidable and completely compatible partner, with phrasing and a liquidity of tone that puts him in the highest ranks for this kind of music. Put the two together with this music and you have real excitement, passion and some very impressive brio. They take some passages at a maddening clip and make the music swell in all its glory. They linger on other passages with passion but no sentimentality whatsoever.
All around this may be the most balanced reading we are likely to get. It doesn't over-emote nor is it in any way a clinical interpretation. Of all the modern recordings this one for me satisfies the most. Of course I appreciate the other versions I have for the differences in approach. But if you could only choose one, this one is highly recommended. Needless to say it will fit right in with your collection even if you already have one or more other recordings.
Queyras and Melnikov are masters. They show their extraordinary teamwork on this release to great affect. Bravo!