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Cat. No. CHAN 10274 X Price: £7 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10274 - Britten: Cello Symphony/ Death in Venice Suite
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Available From: 15 November 2004
"The Cello Symphony, completed in May 1963, was one of a series of works that Benjamin Britten composed and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. It was the first purely instrumental work of imposing scale that Britten had composed since the early 1940s. The most important distinction to be made between Britten’s early concertos and the Cello Symphony is in the relationship between the soloist and the orchestra. In the bravura Piano Concerto (1938) and even in the more intense Violin Concerto (1939) the soloist assumes the traditional stance, being removed from and in the dramatic conflict with the orchestra, whereas in the Cello Symphony the soloist is a virtuosic yet integral part of a coherent symphonic design. The relationship is that which Britten had already explored in the Sonata for Cello and Piano that he had composed for Rostropovich in 1960. An age-old problem in writing for the cello as a solo instrument in the context of a full symphony orchestra is the difficulty of balancing the textures in such a way that the soloist can be heard. But the cello’s most expressive range is that which corresponds with the tessitura of the tenor voice, and Britten certainly knew how to discipline orchestral forces to allow the tenor voice to carry without force.

The operas of Benjamin Britten do not lend themselves easily to concert use: Peter Grimes with its Sea Interludes and Gloriana with its Choral Dances are conspicuous by their success. When Sir Peter Pears suggested the possibility of arranging a suite from Death in Venice, it was the use of some of the substantial dance music that he had in mind. What actually emerged ten years later was not a selection of individual numbers but a kind of operatic symphony which flows logically and continuously through the plot of the opera, falling neatly into seven sections.


This is the only recording of the ‘Death in Venice’ Suite, and it is a sonic spectacular, richly detailed, aptly paced, and emotionally involving.
American Record Guide

I am full of admiration for the way in which Steuart Bedford has constructed an effective suite out of Death in Venice… the result is surprisingly convincing and moving.

Wallfisch, as suave and polished as before… is sensibly balanced with the orchestra, as the composer would have wished, and the symphonys fascinating complications are clearly expounded… a treasure and a must for English-music collectors.
Which Compact Disc

The ECOs playing is magnificent. An outstanding issue.


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