London, June 11, 2015

Britten  Cello Sonata, Op. 65
Shostakovich  Cello Sonata, Op. 40

 

Aleksei Kiseliov cello
Itamar Golan piano

 

Illustrated talk by Iain Burnside

 

The catalyst was ‘Slava’, the charismatic cellist Mstislav Rostropovich: in 1960, at the height of the Cold War, he gave the UK premiere of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, an event at which Britten met Shostakovich and Rostropovich for the first time. The two composers were both shy men, but recognised each other as kindred spirits as well as fellow artists. Britten’s immediate response was to pen his bold Sonata in C, in some ways a portrait of Slava, his courage, humour and suffering. Shostakovich’s own Cello Sonata dates from the creative crucible of his pre-war years when he was learning to subvert conventional forms in emotionally powerful ways. Britten said of Shostakovich, ‘no one composing today has equal influence on me’. Shostakovich responded by dedicating his Symphony No. 14 to Britten.

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