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CD Review

Kenneth Leighton

Complete Chamber Works for Cello

  • Partita, Op. 35
  • Elegy, Op. 5
  • Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 52
  • Alleluia Pascha Nostrum, Op. 85
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
Raphael Terroni, piano
British Music Society BMS439 61min
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Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988) is one of England's most accomplished composers of the second half of the 20th century, but having to share the musical scene with such gigantic figures as Benjamin Britten, Malcolm Arnold and William Walton may have contributed to his lack of serious recognition. Whatever the case, his discography is slowly but surely taking shape, and this issue will undoubtedly make listeners more aware of Leighton's unique individual voice, apart from highlighting the fact that English music is still alive and kicking.

This disc groups together all of the composer's complete chamber works for cello, four in all, but each piece has that special timbre that makes it so different from the other. Leighton's first work in the medium was the Elegy of 1953, a reworking of a movement from his 1949 Sonata in F minor which he composed as a 20 year-old student at the Queen's College, Oxford. Lyrically intense, the piece leaves a great impression, and is full of that youthful ardour that is always high on inspiration.

The Partita and Sonata for Solo Cello date from 1959 and 1967 respectively and although they are similar in layout, the musical content alternates between a certain introversion and vigorous virtuosity. The 1970 Alleluia Pascha Nostrum is the composer's last work in the genre, and with its reference to plainchant, a sense of mystique permeates the piece.

Wallfisch plays with impassioned commitment wading his way through the many technical hazards with assured mastery. Terroni's support is sympathetic throughout. This is a splendid addition to the Leighton canon in fine sound with detailed notes.

Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech