Alan Richardson: Sonata for Two Pianos [Printed Music]

Thanks to the tireless advocacy of the pianist Simon Callaghan, the music of the Derbyshire-born Roger Sacheverell Coke has started to emerge from the obscurity in which it has languished since the composer’s death in 1972. Despite showing considerable early promise, Coke remained an outsider in British musical life. His three cello sonatas frame the years 1936 to 1941 a very productive period in Coke’s life. Dedicated to Coke’s mother Dorothy, the first cello sonata is cast in four movements, the sonata exhibits many of the hallmarks of Coke’s music. The first movement is a typically ambiguous blend of romantic lyricism and grave chromaticism, with cello and piano treated as equal partners. A slow introduction gives way to an angular theme that dominates the movement and builds to a tense contrapuntal climax, with solo passages for the pianist punctuating the musical discourse. Coke exploits extremes of register in both instruments: high spare unison passages in the piano, at times seeming to prefigure late Shostakovich, and rich, dark sonorities in the cello.
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A delightful and enchanting addition to the two piano repertoire These are enchanting pieces, and beautifully written. It is immediately evident that Alan Richardson was a superb composer, who deserves to be much better known. All three of these pieces appear to flow effortlessly, but this belies the skill and craftsmanship with which they are composed. The composer clearly had a fantastic understanding of the piano and the two instruments are beautifully and sensitively balanced. The pieces are very comfortable and pianistic and I loved playing them through myself. They are not too difficult, but there is never a sense of the composer compromising what he wanted and needed to say. The Caprice on a theme of Liszt really captures the spirit of the composer, but the sense of whimsy and deliciously chromatic harmonies add some intriguing spice to the mixture. I loved the Waltz, sometimes pretending to be po-faced, but actually quite naughty with its bluesy harmonies and cheeky rhythms. The Passepied gives a nod to the "English pastoral" style of writing, and takes us through some delightful and unexpected harmonic byways. The score is beautifully laid out and I am fairly certain that it will put smiles on the faces of almost every piano duo. Warmly recommended! James Kirby, pianist


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