WORKS: Cello Sonata; Meditation
PERFORMER: Øystein Birkeland (cello); Vebjørn Anvik (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1160
The coupling of Bridge’s Cello Sonata with that of Britten seems so obvious that it is remarkable that it is not just merely common, but the norm when programming these works. Especially so when, as here, Bridge’s remaining pieces for cello and piano can be included to make up a generous and very rewarding recital. It is not simply that, as Britten’s much-respected teacher, there is on one level an affinity between the two composers. It is also that, as his outlook became increasingly progressive, Bridge
was exploring similar problems of expression to his more famous protégé. Britten was, of course, a lifelong champion of Bridge’s music, but it still needs advocates.
Øystein Birkeland and Vebjørn Anvik certainly have the measure of both sonatas, displaying passion in the Bridge and reflecting the multi-faceted moods of Britten’s often quirky work. It will come as no surprise that Britten and Rostropovich reign supreme in both works, possessing an authority and intensity that will surely never be surpassed. Their performances are on separate discs, though, and without the additional Bridge pieces. If the newcomers do not always quite wring every last ounce of emotion from the Britten, they are certainly not merely spinning notes. Occasionally a little more space would be welcome, but they are at least a match for Steven Doane and Barry Snyder’s sensitive performances of both works on the Bridge label, or Walsh and Lenehan’s account of the Britten on EMI. The only drawback is the occasionally suffocating closeness of the sound. Christopher Dingle