Listening to Britten – Sonata for cello and piano (1926)


Cello, 2013 (c) Ben Hogwood

Sonata for cello and piano in A major (17 April 1926, Britten aged 12)

1 Allegro molto
2 Andante ma poco presto
3 Presto

Dedication not known
Duration 8′

Background and Critical Reception

The youthful cello sonata has only recently been heard in public, with its UK premiere given in November 2012 at the Wigmore Hall by Steven Isserlis and Connie Shih.

Personal thoughts

Now that the piece has been broadcast (first heard on 5th June 2013) it is possible to gain an insight in to this incredibly early piece. Britten’s musical language is attractive and often busy, the two instruments together in a way that suggests he has already heard some of the Beethoven music for cello and piano.

Not surprisingly the melodic material is relatively straightforward, especially in the arpeggios of the first movement, but this is the sound of a composer enjoying himself and the sound he can make. That Britten was only twelve when he completed it adds a sense of wonder to the experience.

Listen

For the month of June 2013 the sonata can be heard, played by Isserlis and pianist Connie Shih, on the BBC Radio 3 website, though beware – the announcer introduces it as mature Cello Sonata Britten completed 35 years later!

Also written in 1926: Antheil – Ballet mécanique

Next up: A Dirge

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