British Cello Works Vol.2: Smyth, Delius, Gibbs, Britten | Lyrita SRCD412

British Cello Works Vol.2: Smyth, Delius, Gibbs, Britten


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Label: Lyrita

Cat No: SRCD412

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Chamber

Release Date: 3rd February 2023



In her A minor Sonata, op.5, as in her earlier Sonata in C minor for cello and piano (1880), Ethel Smyth favours expressivity over virtuosity, emphasising the cello’s warm and lyrical tone. The piano enjoys a key role in all three movements and is often invited to present the chief subject matter rather than merely playing a supporting role accompanying the cello line.

One of Delius’s most satisfying chamber works, the Cello Sonata is distinguished by the expressive power of its material. Both instruments enter at the same time, the cello unfolding a songlike, long-limbed line, while the piano presents the main idea. A second key theme, introduced by the cello over the piano’s rippling, arpeggiated chords, is more forthright and sharply defined.

An unattributed review of Gibbs’s Cello Sonata in E minor published in The Musical Times in 1953, found it to be ‘an ideal piece of work for cellists who want something contemporary on which to develop their technique, for its difficulties are of the sort which repays practice’. Thanks to this recording of the work more than seventy years after its completion, contemporary listeners now have an opportunity to appreciate its melodic strength, understated formal artistry and grateful writing for both instruments.

Britten’s Cello Sonata is a challenging, bravura piece that benefits immeasurably from the natural affinity between composer and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. The relationship would inspire Britten to produce four more major works for Rostropovich who wrote of the work, ‘This is a sonata full of surprises, innovations for any cellist, gifts for the musician flowing freely from the horn of plenty. We meet not merely a novelty in finger-work but, what is most important, a new kind of expressive and profound dramatic composition.’

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