Britten: Suites for Cello

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COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Suites for Cello
PERFORMER: Daniel Müller-Schott (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: Orfeo C 835 111 A

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Can there be anything in all Britten’s output that catches the heart with such raw appeal as the Cello Suites? In these intricate, intimate monuments to a friendship the composer seems to lay his soul bare. They were inspired not just by Mstislav Rostropovich but by the distinct tonal personality of his cello, so cellists who play them today must take this legacy into account.

Müller-Schott has all the technical resources at his disposal, and opens the First Suite with just the right weight and poise. Truls Mørk (Virgin) plays with more speed, shape and intensity. Both he and Pieter Wispelwey (Onyx) create a more seamless flow throughout the Suite than Schott, and Wispelwey has the edge in sheer tonal beauty and variety. But what Schott brings to all the Suites is a sharpness and power reminiscent of Rostropovich himself, which makes up for the slight lack of mystery and flexibility, particularly in the rigorous counterpoint of the Second Suite.

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In the final and most challenging Suite – a complex, labyrinthine work – Schott is right to find links to Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto, but he is perhaps too reverent, too deliberate – we are aware of every perfectly voiced chord, every note value. Nevertheless, this is an impressive set. Helen Wallace