Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph
July 2013

Britten’s suites for solo cello are not perhaps an easy listen any more than they are easy to play, but Jamie Walton’s absorbing performances of all three seem to expose and explore the emotional heart and soul that went into the writing of them. Listen, for example, to the Lamento of the First Suite from 1964, and you immediately have the measure both of Britten’s creative intensity and of Walton’s interpretative breadth and depth. Britten’s dual inspiration for these works came from the Baroque tradition crowned by Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites of about 1720 and from the supreme, outgoing and inwardly expressive artistry of Mstislav Rostropovich. The friendship between Britten and Rostropovich yielded not only these three suites but also the Cello Sonata and the Cello Symphony. It was from Bach that Britten probably gleaned the technique of exploiting the cello’s ability to imply harmonic contours and textural counterpoint despite its being an essentially linear instrument. Spurred by Rostropovich’s personality and musicianship, he forged music of kaleidoscopic colour, diversity of character and comprehensive technical resourcefulness. The switches of temperament in the Second Suite of 1967, for example, lead to an aggressive Scherzo being poignantly framed by the more contemplative, fragile Fuga and fourth-movement Andante, with the final Ciaccona hardly any less impressive or challenging than the famous Ciaccona in Bach’s D minor Violin Partita. The Third Suite, composed in 1971 and revised in 1974, is an even more direct homage to Rostropovich in that it takes its cue from Russian folk melodies and also from the Orthodox Kontakion of the Dead, all manipulated with Britten’s typical ingenuity. Here again, Walton’s range of utterance is rich, subtly inflected and a towering testament to his innate musicality and profound thinking.