- Sonata for arpeggione & piano in A minor ("Arpeggione Sonata"), D. 821
- Stücke im Volkston (5) for cello (or violin) & piano, Op. 102
- Sonata for cello & piano, L. 135
As long as there's an England, these performances of Schubert's "Arpeggione Sonata," Schumann's "Fünf Stücke im Volkston," and Debussy's "Cello Sonata" will always be available. Played by the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the English sometimes pianist and full-time great composer Benjamin Britten, these performances from 1961 and 1968 showcase the latter's uniquely English ability to play with, play around, play over, play under, and play through a soloist. This is not to say that Rostropovich isn't a huge presence. With his big tone, his strong technique, and his commanding personality, the player is instantly and always identifiable as the late, great Russian whether in the lyrical Schubert, the whimsical Schumann, or the evanescent Debussy. But it is to say that Britten is just as huge a presence. With his subtle tone, his nuanced technique, and his ingenious personality, Britten sometimes blends with Rostropovich, sometimes stand apart from Rostropovich, sometimes supports Rostropovich, sometimes challenges Rostropovich -- and never in ways that the listener familiar with these works would expect. Is Britten pushing too hard in the Schubert, relaxing too much in the Schumann, or doing any bloody thing he wants in the Debussy? Or is Britten pulling back too much in the Schubert, tensing too much in the Schumann, and going along for the ride in the Debussy? It's impossible to say because Britten's playing is all these things and more. But the answer to the most important question -- does it work? -- is an emphatic "yes." Together and separately, Rostropovich and Britten turn in performances that stand with -- but slightly apart from -- the best ever made. Recorded in rich, warm, and detailed stereo by Decca, this disc should be heard by anyone who loves the performers or the repertoire.