Roger Sacheverell Coke: Cello Sonatas
All three sonatas on this typically enterprising Lyrita anthology date from the years 1936 to 1941 - an especially fecund period for the composer, which also saw the completion of his Second Symphony (which bears a dedication to Rachmaninov), two piano concertos (Nos 3 and 4 - recorded by Hyperion on Vol 73 of its Romantic Piano Concerto series, 11/17), as well as the 24 Preludes and powerfully taut 15 Variations and Finale (both for piano). I enthused about these last two when assessing Simon Callaghan's exemplary premiere recordings (Somm, 8/15), and if none of the works here rises to the same level of inspiration, there's still plenty to reward the patient listener. Take the First Sonata's absorbing opening Allegro moderate with its frequently bony textures and adventurous harmonic reach; or the two sets of sparkling theme and variations that comprise the finales of the Second and Third Sonatas (in the former there's a quotation from the first movement of Rachmaninov's Fourth Piano Concerto). Elsewhere, a generously lyrical impulse comes to the fore in the slow movements and No 1 's concluding 'Quasi una fantasia', where Lyrita's excellent annotator, Rupert Ridgewell, is surely not mistaken in detecting strong stylistic and even thematic links with Frank Bridge (namely his glorious Cello Sonata) and Bloch (From Jewish Life}.No lost masterpieces, then, but a thoughtful, quietly individual voice does emerge with repeated hearings. Inquisitive readers can rest assured that Callaghan and the admirable Raphael Wallfisch strain every sinew in their passionate advocacy of Roger Sacheverell Coke. First-rate sound and expert balance, too. Andrew Achenbach GRAMOPHONE
In the last few years recordings of the music of Roger Sacheverell Coke have introduced an almost unknown composer to the discography. In the vanguard has been Simon Callaghan who recorded piano concertos three, four and five (a surviving movement) for Hyperion’s ‘Romantic Piano’ series, solo piano works for Somm and returns for a thorough exploration of the three Cello sonatas, of which these are the first commercial recordings (there’s a non-commercial recording of No.2)...
The singing melodic lines are richly harmonised in idiomatic piano writing and cover the full range of cello emotions, from elegiac poignancy to dance- like exuberance. Perhaps, for a composer who often suffered from bouts of depression there is much darkly expressive music here. The First Sonata of 1936 is the shortest at 20 minutes and is perhaps the most successful as the material is unpretentious, and finally balanced between playful and heartfelt.