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CD Review

English Cello Sonatas

British Music Society 423
  • John Foulds: Sonata for Cello, Op. 6
  • Ernest Walker: Sonata for Cello in F minor, Op. 41
  • York Bowen: Sonata for Cello in A Major, Op. 64
Jo Cole, cello
John Talbot, piano
British Music Society BMS423CD 81mins
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As the 20th century unfolded, English composers were writing some notably fine sonatas for cello and piano. Delius, Bridge, Ireland, and Britten are now household names with lovers of British music. More recently sonatas by Bax, Moeran, and Rubbra have also been recorded, but works by Bantock, Rawsthorne, Reizenstein, and Joubert still await the public's acceptance.

The three pieces on this riveting disc could be included with the latter group, although their neglect is, to say the least, mystifying. John Foulds (1880-1939), Ernest Walker (1870-1949), and York Bowen (1884-1961) could be considered as contemporaries, so the choice to include their music on one CD is most appropriate.

Fould's sonata is one of his most accomplished works, but since its publication 70 years ago it has only received a handful of performances. Nonetheless, its reputation is justifiably high among those who know or have heard it. Fould's biographer Malcolm MacDonald describes it as a powerful and original work, and one of the finest cello sonatas by an English composer.

Walker's piece is considered to be the pinnacle of his artistic achievements, and in it the composer employs chromatic harmony against a diatonic background to intensify the expression of musical passion and lead to Faure-esque harmonic argument.

Bowen's 1921 Sonata is a brilliant three movement creation which displays the composer's masterly control of unorthodox key relationships and advanced harmonic resources. Cole and Talbot have this magnificent music under their skin, and their performances are consistently intense and superbly balanced.

A peach of an issue in first-rate sound and with informative annotations, not to mention the over-generous playing time, which at 81 minutes must be one of the longest single CD's ever recorded. Warmly recommended.

Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech

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