Schubert, Schumann, Debussy

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Schubert,Schumann
LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Arpeggione Sonata, D821
PERFORMER: Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Benjamin Britten (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 460 974-2 ADD Reissue (1961, 1968)
Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten made this recording of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata at the Snape Maltings in July 1968, and despite certain caveats, it’s good to see it restored to the catalogues. But although one marvels throughout at the refinement and subtlety of Britten’s playing, I doubt that if Rostropovich were to re-record this sonata today, he would sound much better attuned to its particular needs. Rostropovich is not a naturally empathetic Schubertian (he learned the work only days before the recording was made, so stylistic shortcomings are perhaps understandable), though I’d happily live with his larger-than-life idiosyncrasies just to savour Britten’s insightful realisation of the piano part. Collectors seeking a more classically-disposed version founded on traditional Schubertian values will greatly prefer Maurice Gendron and Jean Françaix on Philips, though Rostropovich’s account of the Debussy cello sonata has plenty of imagination and rapture, and the new Decca transfer is superb. Michael Jameson