Monday 29 August 2016

Naxos brings fine performances from cellist Oliver Gledhill and pianist Tadashi Imai of works by W.H. Squire that transport the listener to another era

Born at Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, England, William Henry Squire (1871-1963), known as W. H. Squire, was one of the most significant of English cellists influencing many through his teaching. He attended Kingsbridge Grammar School in Devon before being awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Music in London where he studied cello with Edward Howell and composition with Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Stanford.

Though he wrote a cello concerto and two operettas most of Squire’s works were for cello and piano. As a cellist his playing was very much of the old school with liberal use of portamento, a style which declined in the 1930s as cellists such as Pablo Casals introduced a cleaner line with fewer slides. One of his most famous recordings is that of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Hamilton Harty in 1928, a recording that highlights his generous use of portamento.

In the later years of the 19th century Squire was Principal Cello at Covent Garden and later of the Queens’s Hall Orchestra performing at many of Henry Wood’s Promenade Concerts. In the early part of the 20th century Squire was very active as a soloist as well as playing in a trio with pianist William Murdoch and violinist Albert Sammons. He taught cello at the Royal College of Music and at the Guildhall School of Music.

Naxos  have just issued a recording of a selection from the many miniatures for cello and piano that Squire wrote, some receiving their world premiere recordings, played by cellist Oliver Gledhill and pianist Tadashi Imai

Oliver Gledhill finds some lovely tones and timbres in the Romance, Op. 5, No. 1 (1890) with a finely laid out piano part from Tadashi Imai. Gavotte humoristique, Op. 6 (1890) proves to be a lively piece played with great humour and wit by these two players. Scène de Bal, Op. 8 (1890) brings a great sense of rhythmic flexibility, an ebb and flow, Gledhill delivering some terrific little high notes, finding every little detail.

Sérénade, Op. 15 (1892) positively dances ahead with this cellist bringing much character to his playing, achieving a fine partnership and finding a sense of playfulness. In contrast there is a rather earnest but finely shaped Minuet, Op. 19, No. 3 (1893) before the world premiere recording of the Mazurka, Op. 19, No. 4 (1893) to which these two artists bring a real rhythmic lift, Gledhill finding many fine textures and timbres.

They bring a lovely undulating flow to another world premiere recording of the Gondoliera, Op. 20, No. 2 (1895) pushing ahead, never allowing the music to flag. Danse rustique, Op. 20, No. 5 (1895) has an attractive directness brought out by these players, both finding some terrific textures. There are some lovely little inflexions in the charming Chansonnette, Op. 22 (1896) that inhabits much of the world of Elgar’s Chansons, with such sensitive playing here
There is a spirited Tarantella in D Minor, Op. 23 (1896) with again fine textures and timbres appearing, these players never routine, before a beautifully controlled and shaped L'Adieu (Romance) (1896) full of gentle feeling. The piano announces a lively Tzig-Tzig (1898), a Hungarian Dance where the cello joins to bring some terrific rhythmic variations, full of wit. The Bourrée, Op. 24 (1901) is finely nuanced, Gledhill and Imai finding some lovely moments before a fleet Humoresque in F Major, Op. 26 (1902) with these players showing their great rapport.

Oliver Gledhill and Tadashi Imai next play five of Squire’s 6 Morceaux melodiques (1903). No.1 Canzonetta has a fine rhythmic lilt, again beautifully shaped. No. 2. Danse orientale is full of energy and fun, this cellist drawing some fine textures and harmonies. They bring some effecting moments to the lovely No. 3. Elégie with some rich tones and textures. Gledhill provides a lovely singing cello line over staccato piano chords in No. 4. Madrigal, a lovely little miniature. Finally from this set comes No. 6. Harlequinade, a piece that gallops along, full of good humour whilst Gledhill still manages to find some lovely textures.

The recital concludes with Prière (1904) a fine piece that pulls together so much of Squire’s fine textures and exquisitely shaped invention.

These are fine performances of much character from Oliver Gledhill, both players finding moments of wit and humour and a fine rapport. They are nicely recorded at The Wathen Hall, St. Paul’s School, Barnes, London, England with a fine ambience around the players and excellent notes from the cellist within a nicely illustrated booklet with a facsimile of an album leaf of Squire’s Serenade.   

This disc, supported by the British Music Society, is one that transports the listener to another era. 

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