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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-76)
Cello Suites – No. 1 in G, Op. 72; No. 2 in D, Op. 80; No. 3, Op. 87.

Truls Mørk (cello).
Virgin Classics VC5 45399-2 [DDD] [73'07] Recorded in Ris Church, Oslo, Norway on October 11th-16th, 1998 and June 6th, 2000.


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Truls Mørk adds to his already impressive discography with this recording of the three Britten Cello Suites. His recording of the Britten Cello Symphony (with the Elgar Concerto on VC5 45356-2, accompanied by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Rattle) was an impressive achievement, and he showed his affinity with Shostakovich in the disc of the two cello concertos (LPO/Mariss Jansons) on VC5 45145-2.

The Solo Cello Suites were originally written for the composer’s close friend Mstislav Rostropovich and there are recordings of Nos. 1 and 2 by this great musician on London 432 859-2 (he actually never recorded the Third Suite). They were written in 1964, 1967 and 1971 respectively. There is the inevitable resonance of Bach in the very act of writing these works, which Britten transforms into his own very personal musings. Indeed, Britten originally planned six such works, but fate got the upper hand and he was unable to complete the sequence through ill-health.

The danger is that Rostropovich’s shadow is inevitably going to fall over all those who present these works. Not only was he a personal friend of the composer and the dedicatee, he also happens to be (arguably) the greatest cellist of the twentieth century. It is a measure of Mørk's integrity of utterance that he stands his ground, bringing his own stamp in particular to the lyrically resonant side of these pieces. He possesses a glorious tone and displays a real affinity with the long line.The very first movement of the First Suite (entitled ‘Canto primo: Sostenuto e largamente’) shows this perfectly: but he also seems to revel in the more experimental musical language fourth movement (‘Marcia’) and the virtuoso challenges of the final Moto perpetuo. Amazingly, all the fast detail in the lower register in this finale seems to come through clearly, a tribute not only to Mørk’s fine articulation and clarity but also to the excellence of Arne Akselberg’s recording.

The Second Suite demonstrates the various contrasting sides to Mørk’s personality. The lyrical, almost wistful fugue and the Andante lento (which in this performance brings the marking ‘dolente’ to mind as a possible addition to this direction) sandwich between them a scherzo which brings out the cellist’s wilder side.The final sections of the last movement (Ciaccona) are atmospherically caught, truly dark in intent and effect.

The nine movements of the Third Suite are unified by four Russian elements: the Kontakion (hymn for the dead) and three of Tchaikovsky’s folk-song arrangements. Mørk is at his most expressive in the Canto (the third movement). Only in the fifth movement, the Dialogo, did I imagine what Rostropovich would do, and how much more jaunty he would be.

There is no doubting the power of this music. Mørk successfully couples a young man’s enthusiasm and a beautiful tone with a worldly understanding beyond his years to produce a disc that will leave few unmoved.

 

Reviewer

Colin Clarke

 

 

 


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