Britten: Piano Concerto in D; Lachrymae; Cello Sonata

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LABELS: Revelation
WORKS: Piano Concerto in D; Lachrymae; Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano), Yuri Bashmet (viola), Natalia Gutman (cello); State SO/Evgeny Svetlanov
Of all Britten’s works, the Piano Concerto is perhaps the one that most belies his introverted, shy personality. When premiered in 1938 its bravura manner excited all who heard it, and its heart-on-sleeve emotion prompted WH Auden to declare it could be used as an aid to seduction. But it soon seems to have been overshadowed by the composer’s operatic work and it wasn’t until the mid-Sixties that it found a new lease of life in the hands of Sviatoslav Richter. Britten felt Richter’s revival of the Concerto at the 1967 Aldeburgh Festival ‘clearly resurrected the old work’. Yet barely a week earlier, Richter had played the work in his home country, and it is this performance that finds its way on to this disc, one of the most fascinating and valuable Revelation discs so far. It is a larger-scale account than the one he recorded with Britten and the ECO three years later (Decca), with Svetlanov and the orchestra providing big-boned accompaniment, but there is undoubted devotion and authority from all concerned. Richter is also a personable duo partner with the committed Bashmet and Gutman in 1985 recordings of Lachrymae and the Cello Sonata. Matthew Rye