Rediscoveries: Britten's Powerful Solo Cello Sonatas

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Years ago I bought an lp of the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich on which he performed Benjamin Britten’s Cello Suites 1 & 2.  It was truly stunning, both the composition and performance.  A few years ago I bought the cd version.  Although I’m a vinyl junkie who prefers analog sound, cd’s are better for solo instrumental performances because there is no analog tape hiss;  the background is more silent.

I often recommend Bach’s solo cello suites (6 in all) to friends and listeners.  Yo-Yo Ma’s is great, so are lesser-known but equally wonderful Janos Starkers and Rostropovich versions.  The Britten suites are much more angular and dissonant;  the bow is hitting the cello body in certain passages, and Rostropovich also uses harmonics in many sections.  It’s a powerhouse performance if there was ever one, and I am delighted to have pulled it out of the library and listened again.

We KCRW deejays are so inundated with new cd’s that we don’t have as much time to go back and rediscover past gems.  I’m rewarded every time I do so.