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Track(s) taken from CDA67941/2

Cello Suite No 3, Op 87

early spring 1971 by April; first performed by dedicatee Mstislav Rostroprovich at the Maltings, Snape on 21 December 1974; first three movements from Tchaikovsky's folk-song arrangements, fourth movement from Kontakion

Alban Gerhardt (cello)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Recording details: December 2011
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2013
Total duration: 20 minutes 57 seconds

Cover artwork: Valerian Glory at Aldeburgh (2012) by Mita Higton

Other recordings available for download

Matthew Barley (cello)
Jamie Walton (cello)
Tim Hugh (cello)


'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)
The Suite No 3, completed in the spring of 1971 but not performed by its dedicatee until December 1974 owing to severe restrictions on his movements imposed by the Soviet authorities in the wake of his friendship with the dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, pays tribute to Rostropovich’s Russian heritage in its format of a set of variations on four traditional Russian themes. The first three are taken from Tchaikovsky’s volumes of folk song arrangements (‘Under the apple tree’, ‘Autumn’ and ‘The grey eagle’) and the fourth is the Kontakion, or hymn to the departed. The final suite works in reverse, as it were, by delaying the statement of these themes until the very end, after all the variations have been heard. Although the movements follow one another without a break, each variation is a self-contained character piece. After the initial Introduzione, there follows a Marcia, Canto, Barcarola, Dialogo, Fuga, Recitativo, Moto perpetuo and concluding Passacaglia.

from notes by Mervyn Cooke © 2013

La Suite nº 3, achevée au printemps 1971, ne fut jouée par son dédicataire qu’en décembre 1974 en raison de sévères restrictions dans ses déplacements imposées par les autorités soviétiques à cause de son amitié avec l’écrivain dissident Alexandre Soljénitsyne. C’est un hommage à l’héritage russe de Rostropovitch qui prend la forme de variations sur quatre thèmes traditionnels russes. Les trois premiers sont empruntés aux volumes d’arrangements de chansons traditionnelles de Tchaïkovski («Sous le pommier», «Automne» et «L’Aigle gris») et le quatrième est le Kontakion ou hymne aux défunts. La dernière suite fonctionne en sens inverse, en repoussant l’exposition de ces thèmes jusqu’à la fin, après toutes les variations. Bien que les mouvements s’enchaînent sans interruption, chaque variation est une pièce de caractère indépendante. Après l’Introduzione initiale, viennent une Marcia, Canto, Barcarola, Dialogo, Fuga, Recitativo, Moto perpetuo et une Passacaglia finale.

extrait des notes rédigées par Mervyn Cooke © 2013
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Die Suite Nr. 3 wurde im Frühling 1971 fertiggestellt, allerdings erst im Dezember 1974 von ihrem Widmungsträger uraufgeführt, da dieser aufgrund seiner Freundschaft zu dem regimekritischen Schriftsteller Alexander Solschenizyn starken Reiseeinschränkungen unterlag. Mit dem Werk zollte Britten der russischen Herkunft Rostropowitschs Tribut, indem er hier einen Variationenzyklus über vier traditionelle russische Themen anfertigte. Die ersten drei stammen aus Tschaikowskys Ausgaben von Volkslied-Arrangements („Unterm grünen Apfelbaum“, „Herbst“ und „Der graue Adler“) und die vierte ist die Kontakion, oder Hymne an die Verstorbenen. Die letzte Suite ist sozusagen umgekehrt angelegt, da diese Themen erst ganz zum Schluss, nach allen Variationen, erklingen. Obwohl die Sätze ohne Pause aufeinander folgen, ist jede Variation ein in sich geschlossenes Charakterstück. Nach der Introduzione zu Beginn folgen Marcia, Canto, Barcarola, Dialogo, Fuga, Recitativo, Moto perpetuo und, zum Schluss, eine Passacaglia.

aus dem Begleittext von Mervyn Cooke © 2013
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

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CDA66274Archive Service
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