Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Valerian Glory at Aldeburgh (2012) by Mita Higton
www.artsumitra.co.uk
Track(s) taken from CDA67941/2
Recording details: December 2011
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2013
Total duration: 24 minutes 40 seconds

'Given Gerhardt's fine Britten credentials, this makes a recommendable package: performances are well judged, with clean-cut rhythms and good attention to detail' (Gramophone)

'Gerhardt plunges into the labyrinthine mazes of the solo suites and strikes gold. This is a real tour de force: in such late works Britten reached expressive extremities found nowhere else in his oeuvre. Gerhardt is a fearless guide, blazing a trail with utter conviction, his powerful rhythmic impetus pulling us through each intricate chamber … last but not least his reading of Britten's Sonata with Steven Osborne is utterly thrilling. A must-have set for all Britten enthusiasts' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This poetic, virtuosic player makes a powerful case for the three unaccompanied Cello Suites' (The Observer)

'There is every reason to explore this set with Alban Gerhardt. He is fully in command of the technical subtleties, detailed expressive facets and structural scope of the Cello Symphony, and Andrew Manze … has the measure of the music's spectrum of deep reflectiveness and dramatic force. Strongly and sensitively partnered by Steven Osborne, Gerhardt gives a wonderfully vital performance of the Cello Sonata, alert to the cunning interplay between the two instruments and to the rhythmic wiliness that characterises the opening movement … in the solo suites … Gerhardt's playing is supple, richly coloured and articulated with the utmost finesse. These performances demonstrate a mature affinity with Britten's personal style in an important and compelling body of music' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The listener is struck by the remarkable variety and richness of sound the composer conjures up from a single instrument, rather than any feeling of limitation. Alban Gerhardt's performances underline this impresssion: his tone is gorgeously opulent and he revels in the composer's aural inventiveness … Gerhardt produces a stunning range of colour in 'Bordone' and uncannily transforms his cello into a guitar in 'Serenata' … the brilliance of the cellist's playing, as well as his vision of the work, is more than matched by the outstanding pianism of Steven Osborne. The Cello Symphony is one of Britten's supreme masterpieces' (International Record Review)

'Here we have Britten at the height of his powers, inspired by the charismatic personality of one of the 20th century's greatest musicians … the Cello Symphony is less frequently performed than the more accessible earlier concertos, but Gerhardt makes one of the strongest cases for it on disc … he truly comes into his own in the solo suites' (The Sunday Times)

'This is a brilliant anthology, wonderfully performed and beautifully recorded' (TheArtsDesk.com)

Cello Suite No 1, Op 72
composer
November & December 1964; first performance by dedicatee Mstislav Rostropovich at the Aldeburgh Festival on 27 June 1965

Other recordings available for download
Tim Hugh (cello)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Britten composed for Rostropovich a trilogy of suites for solo cello that constitute rare and valuable examples of a genre sadly neglected by composers since it reached a peak of perfection at the hands of Bach around 1720. The compositional idiom of Britten’s suites harks back in some respects to the precociously inventive instrumental works of his youth, when he had been branded as merely ‘clever’ by astonished critics as he first made his name in the 1930s, and before he devoted most of his attention to composing operas and vocal music.

The suites’ self evident delight in technical wizardry, their exploration of the contrast between drama, lyricism and wit, together with the evocative titles of the individual character pieces which make up each suite, all form a direct link with Britten’s early instrumental display pieces such as the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. (His use of sometimes flamboyant Italian tempo markings in the suites is perhaps symptomatic of the relish with which he returned to instrumental composition, since he generally avoided them in his vocal works.) Britten’s cello writing reveals the influence of Bach in its skilful suggestion of a harmonic dimension by purely linear means, and in the fugues which appear in all three suites Britten even shows himself able to create the illusion of several apparently independent contrapuntal parts by subtle displacements of a single melodic line. In spite of these intriguing technical experiments, Britten’s musical conceptions are never superficial: the technical demands placed on the soloist are always inextricable from genuine musical substance, much in the manner of Chopin’s Études or Bach’s ‘48’.

The Suite No 1 was composed in November and December 1964 and was Britten’s first major score after completing the church parable Curlew River; it received its premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival on 27 June 1965. In the manner of much of Britten’s music in this period, a ritornello theme (here entitled Canto) is used to link the constituent sections, and to provide an outer frame. The remainder of the music falls into six distinct movements: an ingenious Fuga (Andante moderato), Lamento (Lento rubato), a pizzicato Serenata (Allegretto; the homage here is to Debussy, whose Cello Sonata Britten had recorded with Rostropovich in 1961), Marcia (Alla marcia moderato), Bordone (Moderato quasi recitativo) and a concluding Moto perpetuo (Presto) that merges with the final restatement of the ritornello. When Britten had first sent Rostropovich the score and expressed some lack of confidence in it, the cellist responded in January 1965: ‘Dear, darling, beloved Ben of genius, the surprise which I received here in Paris via Marion [Harewood, Britten’s friend, who had delivered a copy of the manuscript], was stupefying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You write in the letter that you don’t consider this work too successful. I looked at it, so far only on paper, but I tell you honestly: either you are too stupid to understand what a piece you have created or it is simply pretence! You have again produced a masterpiece! The greatest thanks for making me so happy.’

from notes by Mervyn Cooke © 2013


Other albums featuring this work
'Britten: Cello Suites' (CDA66274)
Britten: Cello Suites
MP3 £6.00FLAC £6.00ALAC £6.00Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66274  Archive Service   Download currently discounted

Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch