BRITTEN Cello Suites
Evidence of Quirine Viersen’s pedigree in period performance is inescapable in her performance of Britten’s three cello suites, written for Mstislav Rostropovich between 1964 and 1971. Her recording of the Bach Suites (2011) is a light and gentle reading, and similarly her bowing on this new disc is light enough to articulate the references to the Bach that are scattered through all three of Britten’s suites – although nowhere more than in the First, and in particular in the Fuga, where those references are made readily discernible by Viersen without losing any subtlety. The direction also often flows towards the centre of her phrases, rather than the end: the implied (although not actual) presence of a Baroque bow is very firm, and as a result the legacy of the Bach suites – to which Rostropovich was so devoted – is uppermost in this elegant recording.
The vastly differing technical demands of the three suites are such that the greater the calm of their performance, the easier it is to discern how utterly different they are, and the greater their resulting power. For that reason, the recordings of Philip Higham and Jamie Walton are still the best available; and although Viersen does not fall prey to over-expression, there is a certain restlessness to her performance of all three suites that means that they do not stand as clearly as discrete works as they ideally might. That said, although Viersen’s lack of restraint prevents her from charting with sufficient clarity Britten’s changing character as a composer over the condensed period of their composition, she does exercise a degree of control that is more than enough to make manifest their potency as great pieces of music.