This project was initially inspired by the prophetic nature of Shostakovich’s ‘Four Pushkin Romances Op 46’, which Gareth Brynmor John introduced me to in 2019. Not only was I struck by the profundity of how the poetry echoed messages of censorship and exile forward through time; but also by similarities to the cello sonata from two year prior, particularly the composer’s approach to rhythmic features, texture and tessitura. These two works are partnered on our disc by Prokofiev’s ‘Three Pushkin Romances’ which also lyrically reference Pushkin’s exile; and Britten’s ‘The Poet’s Echo’, premiered by soprano Galina Visnevskaya and cellist and pianist Mstislav Rostropovich, a dedicatee of a several cello works by the aforementioned composers.
This final work was written during a composers’ retreat to Armenia in the company of Visnevskaya and Rostropovich, thus devising a cello part for Britten’s only Pushkin cycle felt like an opportunity too good to pass by. I am hugely indebted to Abi Hyde-Smith for her collaborative approach to this process, her patience exploring a broad variety of techniques and sound worlds which resulted in the arrangement recorded on this disc, and the creative input of Gemma Summerfield as she contributed to final drafts during initial rehearsals. We would also like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Britten Pears Arts, Faber Music and Colin Matthews for their support and permission to record this new version of The Poet’s Echo.