Paul Watkins / Edward Gardner

Britten: Cello Symphony; Symphonic Suite from Gloriana; Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes

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Other than perhaps Shostakovich, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich likely had more of an influence on composer Benjamin Britten than any other. Through their friendship and working relationship, Britten eventually composed a sonata with piano, three suites for solo cello, and the Cello Symphony. This last work began as a concerto, but Britten soon realized that the prominent role the orchestra played was far greater than the mere accompaniment usually found in most concertos. The intricate dialogue and turn-taking worked into the score turned out to be one of the composer's only symphonic works that was not originally part of an opera and later lifted as a suite. The most famous and frequently played of these suites is the "Four Sea Interludes" from the opera Peter Grimes. Another suite was taken from the initially ill-received Gloriana rounds out this Chandos disc. The BBC Philharmonic is led by conductor Edward Gardner in three performances of the utmost technical precision and refinement of sound. So much so, however, that despite the near perfection of the playing, the music itself often sounds sterile and aloof. Listeners after a reliable, accurate reading of the score will not be disappointed here, but those after a bit more reckless abandon in the "Storm Interlude" or solemn beauty in Gloriana's "Moritura" may be somewhat of a letdown. For his part, cellist Paul Watkins brings the same level of technical brilliance, but also a good deal more heart, risk-taking, and musical poignancy.

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