Sunday 7 September 2014

Excellent performances of string sonatas by Arnold Cooke from Susanne Stanzeleit, Morgan Goff, Raphael Wallfisch and Raphael Terroni on a release from Naxos

An obituary written for Arnold Cooke (1906-2005), in a UK national newspaper referred to his music as urbane, accessible, tonal and contrapuntally based, displaying the influence of his teacher, Paul Hindemith. Cooke’s entry in Groves talks of how decisive Hindemith was in the formation of Cooke’s lyrical, contrapuntal style.

That certainly goes some way to describing his music but leaves aside the sheer energy that can often occur in his chamber works. My first introduction to the music of this composer was through his Third Symphony written in 1967 and recorded by Lyrita in 1975 . This is a work has some of the same kind of urgency as his chamber works but more of a hint of Hindemith’s rhythms and orchestration, something not heard in the sonatas.

Naxos  have now re-released a British Music Society  recording, made in 2005, of Cooke’s Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano, Sonata for Viola and Piano and Sonata No.2 for Cello and Piano played by Susanne Stanzeleit (violin) , Morgan Goff (viola) , Raphael Wallfisch (cello)  and Raphael Terroni (piano).

It is announced that the extensive discography of BMS, many world premieres of neglected British works, is to be re-released by Naxos. Good news indeed.

Arnold Cooke was born near Leeds, England, the son of a carpet manufacturer, whose uncles and grandfather were musical. He learned to play the cello and organ as well as taking composition lessons from his piano teacher. After studying history at Cambridge University, Cooke went to Berlin to study composition with Paul Hindemith at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. In 1947 he was appointed professor of Harmony and Composition at Trinity College of Music, a post he kept until his retirement.

Cooke’s compositions include an opera, six symphonies, concertos and chamber music.

Arnold Cooke’s Sonata No.2 for Violin and piano (1951) was commissioned by Gerard Heller for Rosemary Rapaport and Else Cross who gave the first performance in 1951. Played here by Susanne Stanzeleit (violin) and Raphael Terroni (piano) the Allegro con brio opens with a rhythmic piano motif immediately joined by the violin that sets this movement bouncing forward. The music relaxes briefly but soon picks up again. When the pace slackens a second time it is for an extended piano passage, though a sense of impending forward momentum is never far away. Soon the pace quickens but, towards the end, drops to a relaxed, gentle and somewhat wistful passage before racing to the conclusion. Perhaps this movement is a little overlong but, nevertheless, is sustained by an overall forward driving momentum.

The violin leads the music in the gentle rocking Andante con moto before sharing the theme. These players bring a lovely lilt to this lovely, flowing movement, a real free flow of melodic invention that eventually leads to a reflective, quiet coda.

The sunny Allegro vivace pushes forward, equally flowing in character with some lovely, intricate piano phrases as Cooke works out his material in this endlessly attractive movement beautifully performed by these artists.

The earliest work on this disc, the Sonata for Viola and Piano (1936-37) was dedicated to Keith Cummings and Lucy Pierce who gave the first performance at the Aeolian Hall, London in 1937.  Morgan Goff (viola) joins Raphael Terroni (piano) in this performance with the darker sound of his viola opening the Allegro, a rather earnest and fast moving piece. There is a slightly unstable rhythmic rocking motion to the music. After a short solo viola section that, whilst slower, is nevertheless, quite virtuosic; the piano re-enters to lead the music forward again with the viola weaving around the piano theme. Soon there is an odd little section, slower and quieter, but soon the music takes off again until slowing before heading to resolve the coda.

The gentle Andante con moto is the longest movement and has a reflective nature with much subtlety brought out by these players.  There are strange harmonics with lovely little phrases from the piano before a piano solo, which is full of breadth. Soon the viola joins this lovely broad theme as it becomes increasingly passionate before relaxing in a quiet, darker section, just about lightened by the piano’s happier mood. The music slows for the hushed coda.  

The Allegro vivace has a playful feel as the music rises and falls, rushing ahead in surges, in music that requires great agility from the violist. The music slows towards the end whilst retaining its flow but soon recovers to drive forward to the coda.

Morgan Goff and Raphael Terroni give terrific performances of this most attractive work.

The Sonata No.2 for Cello and Piano (1979-1980) received its premiere concert performance by the artists on this recording, Raphael Wallfisch (cello) and Raphael Terroni (piano) at a centenary concert in 2006 at Gresham’s School, Norfolk, England.

There is a seriousness to the opening of the Allegro moderato with the cello keeping to its lower register. The music soon picks up, becoming more animated with the cello losing some of its darkness. Soon, indeed, there is a slightly skittish passage for cello and piano before the opening theme returns. As the movement progresses, becoming more and more free and animated, one is aware of just how greater a freedom of flow and tonality Cooke was able to bring to this later piece. Towards the end the music becomes ever more animated as it heads to the coda.

The Lento has a melancholy feel, a reflectiveness, with hints of passion just about peering through. A trilling piano motif and pizzicato cello soon add to the depth of feeling in this movement that often tries to rise up but doesn’t quite manage it. Eventually the music does rise to a slight climax but soon drops, with harmonics on the cello against a tolling piano motif as the music slowly moves toward the hushed coda that concludes on high cello harmonics and a piano chord to end.

The Scherzo: molto vivace is a rollicking affair with the music rhythmically bouncing forward, full of life. There is some lovely interplay between these fine artists in Cooke’s attractive writing.

The Allegro shoots off full of impetus and energy. Again the interplay between Wallfisch and Terroni is brilliantly done, with Wallfisch bringing much feeling to his playing, at turns fierce, passionate and delicate.

This is a really fine later work of Cooke brilliantly performed by Wallfisch and Terroni.

There are lovely moments in these works that bear repeated listening. These artists provide excellent performances. This disc is a further fine tribute to the late Raphael Terroni. They receive a fine recording made in the Music Room of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, England.

There are informative booklet notes on the composer and artists.

See also:

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