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New release, Britten’s Complete Music for Cello Solo and Cello & Piano on Brilliant Classics

Britten: Complete Music for Cello Solo and Cello & Piano

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An unheard sonata by Benjamin Britten sets the pulse racing, even after a year of glut. Composed in 1926 at the age of 12 or 13 and given an opus number of 42, it is a nine-minute Schubertian anachronism, excavated at Aldeburgh and lovingly premiered by two Goldsmiths professors, Alexander Ivashkin and Andrew Zolinsky. Anything else that Britten wrote for cello – three suites and a sonata – was inspired by his playful friendship with the gluttonous Mstislav Rostropovich, who devoured more new music than he ate hot breakfasts. Alexander Ivaskhkin, who died this month aged 65, shared his teacher’s appetites for new Russian scores and salty Britten suites. His performances here, however, owe little to Rostropovich. The gestures are grand yet tight, the structure secure, the tonal quality immaculate. Coolly reconceived, these intimate performances at Deptford Town Hall deliver a gorgeous singing line and an intuitive grasp of Anglo-Slavic crossover. Rostropovich himself could not – did not – go deeper into these soulful, introspective contemplations. Sasha Ivashkin is survived by more than 50 recordings. None, however, is lovelier than this.