third suite

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 5): An Interview with Steven Isserlis — by Aron Zelkowicz

Your 1992 recording of Britten's Third Suite is widely known, due to its pairing with John Tavener's "The Protecting Veil" (which has been called a "cult" recording).  Do you have any approximate idea of how many copies that album has sold? I don't know—quite a few, anyway. I wonder how many people have listened to the Britten, though! There's another connection: the very first time I went to see John Tavener with my cello, I played him the passage in the coda of the Britten where the cello breaks into a chordal version of the chant for the dead—like a Russian Orthodox choir.  I remember him saying how wonderful that music sounded on the cello.  Much later, John heard me play the whole suite, and—rather to my surprise, because it [...]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 3): An Introduction to the Third Suite — by Aron Zelkowicz

  Britten chose to build his Third Suite for Cello around four pre-existing Russian themes: three tunes taken from Tchaikovsky’s volume of folk-song arrangements, and the Kontakion, the Byzantine chant for the dead taken from the Russian Orthodox liturgy.  Rostropovich considered himself Russian Orthodox, and one can appreciate the impact of Britten presenting a score based on this theme as a gift to the cellist in Moscow.  The Third Suite also serves as a dual tribute to Shostakovich.  The second movement, Marcia, includes the signature “anapest” rhythm found in Shostakovich’s symphonies (“da-da-DUM”), and in a subtle yet ingenious linking, the final statement of the Kontakion in C minor employs the notes C-B-Eb-D: a reordered allusion to Shostakovich’s famous four-note D-S-C-H signature (D-Eb-C-B). Britten goes about weaving the Russian-themed motifs in [...]