Two world-class artists play a direct recreation of a seminal moment in Aldeburgh Festival history: the June 1961 recital which saw the world premiere of Britten’s Cello Sonata, along with works by Schubert, Schumann and Debussy.

Sonata for arpeggione and piano in A minor, D.821 (28’)
Sonata for cello and piano in C, Op.65 (18’)
R. Schumann:
Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op.102 (16’)
Sonata for cello and piano (14’)

Alban Gerhardt cello
Steven Osborne piano

Steven Osborne

Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Main image: Alban Gerhardt © Kaupo Kikkas

Alban Gerhardt describes Britten’s Sonata as “the best piece for cello and piano of the 20th century”, and in this event he appears with his regular collaborative pianist Steven Osborne. The Sonata was premiered as part of a programme devised by Britten and his great friend and collaborator Mstislav Rostropovich. From their first meeting in 1960 the ground was laid for the writing of new works for the cello repertoire; the first of these, this Sonata, appeared in a 5 July 1961 programme at the Jubilee Hall, which tonight’s recital faithfully recreates.

The other three works are also cornerstones of the cello repertoire. Debussy’s Cello Sonata is full of dark humour and a restless raw energy. Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata is tender, often fragile, stunningly beautiful. And Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style are earthy and direct in their harmony and melody.

“The sounds they conjured were playful, exotic and raw, with exhilarating immediacy, and rhythmic exactitude and fire. It is hard to imagine a better partnership” (The Guardian)

This performance is being recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast at 7.30pm on Monday 24 June in Radio 3 in Concert, and will be available afterwards on BBC Sounds.