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Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Complete music for Cello Solo and Cello and Piano
Sonata for Cello and Piano in A (1926) [9.32]
Sonata for Cello and Piano in C (1961) [20.39]
Suite No. 1 (1964) [28.29]
Suite No. 2 (1967) [22.55]
Suite No. 3 (1971) [22.44]
Tema ‘Sacher’ (1976) [1.08]
Alexander Ivashkin (cello); Andrew Zolinsky (piano)
rec. December 2012, Deptford Town Hall; Goldsmiths College. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94729 [30.22 + 75.53]

The world première recording of Britten’s 1926 Sonata for Cello and Piano in A opens this disc. It was written when Britten was only 13. The greatest discernible influence here is Schubert; it is a deftly constructed, attractive and impressive piece. It is here given a good performance by Alexander Ivashkin – a pupil of Rostropovich and Andrew Zolinsky – with nicely shaped phrases and good contrasts of colour and articulation. It is rather a shame that the recorded sound is rather thin, and that the acoustic of Deptford Town Hall is boxy and falls awkwardly on the ear.

This is followed by the Sonata for Cello and Piano in C. Here, Ivashkin seems to be fighting somewhat to make himself heard over the piano. Whether this is due to tone production techniques (unlikely, from a student of Rostropovich, one would have thought), or poor balance (more likely), it is hard to say for certain.

The second CD of this two disc set leaves Deptford Town Hall and was instead recorded in the recital room at Goldsmiths College. The acoustic still leaves something to be desired, although at the other end of the spectrum, feeling a bit distant and boomy. The first disc having contained the two Sonatas, this one presents the three Suites for solo cello. We also get the Tema ‘Sacher’, a commission from Rostropovich, in which Britten was asked to provide the theme based on the monogram ‘Sacher’ on which eleven other composers wrote variations. This was to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher. These works are all given excellent performances, with good voicing from Ivashkin, nice colouration and committed and passionate playing.

This is a good set overall, nicely produced and with good notes, including footnotes, and some impressive performances. It is a slight shame that the venues do not do justice to the high quality of the music or the performers.

Em Marshall-Luck



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