Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

EDWARD ELGAR Cello Concerto (1919) [30.00] BENJAMIN BRITTEN Cello Symphony (1963) [35.46]  Truls Mørk (cello) City of Birmingham SO/Simon Rattle   VIRGIN CLASSICS VC5 45356 2 [65.11] 
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The Elgar and the Britten, separated by thirty years, represent antithetical styles. The Elgar, fulsomely romantic - classically autumnal; while the Britten is a sparer document - alive with a colder nightmare than Elgar's lonely elegies could dream. The Britten complete with self quotes from the operas (a pretty easily recognisable passage straight out of Peter Grimes) strikes me as a step onwards from the late works (Oration and Phantasm) of his teacher Frank Bridge.

I am naturally drawn to the Elgar concerto but here I found myself not fully engaged by the Elgar but captivated by this account of the Britten. The Elgar seems curiously uninvolving for reasons I find very difficult to pin down. The recording is uniformly good and clear so it can't be that. The playing seems, to my untutored ears, to be accurate but the emotional core seems a handspan beyond the reach of these artists on the day the recording was made. This is al desperately subjective but I sense detachment rather than involvement.

The Britten however reeks of intrigue, dreamscapes and dark glowering horizons. This is not Mørk's first recording of the piece (there is an older one for BIS which I have not heard) but it is impressive. If this piece is to have a life then players such as Mørk must step forward or its life in concert will end when Rostropovich (the dedicatee) is no more. Mørk (whose discography with Virgin includes the Miaskovsky concerto and Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante) is most caringly partnered by Rattle and the CBSO. Recommended with every enthusiasm for the Britten.


Rob Barnett

(especially for the Britten)


Rob Barnett

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