Music to Work By: Rostropovich and Britten play Schubert

A good bit of my day-to-day work involves reading and reviewing large documents and sets of engineering data. To help that work along, I often listen to music, but really need it to be instrumental music, since music with words can be distracting from the words I’m reading.

One record I keep coming back to and so will highly recommend today is Schubert: Sonata for Arpeggione (bowed guitar) & Piano, d.821 / Schumann: 5 Pieces in the Popular Style (Volkston), Op. 102 / Debussy: Cello Sonata performed by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Benjamin Britten.

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The highlight of this record is the Schubert sonata. In three movements comprising almost 28 minutes of music, Rostropovich explores the full range of the cello, and his interplay with pianist Britten is nothing short of magical. I wasn’t aware before listening to this recording that Britten was an accomplished pianist, but his technique and style here are exquisite, with nuances in dynamics and tempo that perfectly complement the cello.

Recorded in 1968 and remastered and re-released in 1999, the audio quality here is fantastic; you could quite imagine that you were sitting in the room listening to them perform. The occasional bow sound, creak of the cello, and finger sounds on the neck and while playing pizzicato are all there in the ambiance. The piano and cello are never muddy, but always sweet and distinct.

Highly recommended stuff.