Released to mark the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth Matthew Barley's
new release 'Around Britten' and its accompanying tour is a fitting tribute to
one of our finest composers. Recorded last year in Canterbury Cathedral the
album has remarkable presence and warmth and amply displays Mr Barley's technical
dexterity and finesse. This artist really understands how to make his cello sing.
Britten's 'Third Suite For Cello, Op 87' (1971) is the main work in the set
but the accompanying pieces : 'Tre Laude Dolce', a three-part composition by
Gavin Bryars (2007) originally scored for cello, electric guitar and double
bass but performed here in a solo transcription and two pieces by John Taverner,
'Threnos For Solo Cello' (1990) and 'Chant For Cello' (1995), together with
settings of four of Britten's folk song arrangements by Mr Barley : 'Greensleeves';
'Down By The Sally Gardens', 'Oliver Cromwell' and 'Since She Whom I Loved';
(given a fuller sound by virtue of multi-tracking), together with a rendition of
'Concord' from the 'Choral Dances From Gloriana, Op 53' and a further piece by
the performer, 'Improvisation', completes a varied and absorbing collection.
The performance of the Britten suite, written for Russian cellist Mstislav
Rostropovich, is as good as it gets; especially the spellbinding account of
the 'Passacaglia : Lento Solenne' but Taverner's 'Chant For Cello' comes a
close second by virtue of its sublime simplicity. A song for cello indeed!
A delightful project from top to tail.