“Your music is truly among the most outstanding work of the twentieth century. And for me it is a source of great and strong impressions. Write as much as you can.” (Shostakovich to Britten, 1963)
This set represents the first-ever complete collection of Benjamin Britten's music for unaccompanied cello and cello with piano. Many of these works were composed for the legendary Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Britten and Rostropovich were close friends and regularly gave recitals together in both Britain and Russia. It is perhaps because of this connection with Rostropovich that Britten's cello works in particular demonstrate his enduring affinity with Russian culture, leading such a renowned composer as Shostakovich to repeatedly express his admiration for Britten's music.
Britten's much-loved Suites for solo cello are an ideal vehicle for dramatic displays of virtuosity by the cellist – particularly in the First Suite – but also have beautifully expressive moments, such as the Second Suite's lyrical fourth movement. The Russian influence in the Suites is evident through Britten's use of Shostakovich's famous D–S–C–H monogram, and allusions – albeit enigmatic and subtle ones – to Russian folk melodies in the Third Suite. This collection also includes the C major Cello Sonata – which, like the Suites, takes much of its inspiration from historical forms, the world premiere recording of the previously unpublished A major Sonata, a charming work that was written when the composer was just 13 years old and is influenced by Schubert, and the intriguing Tema 'Sacher', written just a few months before Britten's death to celebrate the 70th birthday of the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher and commissioned and premiered by Rostropovich.
Alexander Ivashkin has been described as a “prodigious cellist” by Rostropovich himself, and praised by The Daily Telegraph for combining “breadth of knowledge with a driving energy”. He is accompanied in Britten's Cello Sonatas by virtuoso pianist Andrew Zolinsky.
- World premiere recording of the A major Sonata uses a critical edition prepared by Ivashkin and Zolinsky following meticulous research and collaboration with the Britten-Pears Foundation.
- In the last month of the Centenary celebrations Brilliant Classics presents a tribute to Benjamin Britten, one of the leading 20th century British composers.
- Britten’s friendship with the great Russian cellist Mstslav Rostropovich inspired him to write these masterpieces for the cello: the three suites for cello solo, a 20th century tribute to Bach’s solo suites, and the sonata for cello and piano, a dark, dramatic work, brimming with passion and vitality.
- Includes scholarly booklet notes by Alexander Ivashkin, and artist biographies.