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Richard DRAKEFORD (b. 1936)
Cello Suite (1957/8) [9:22]
John R. WILLIAMSON (b. 1929)

Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano (2001) [27:46]
Vagn HOLMBOE (1909 – 1996)

Sonata for Solo Cello Op.101 (1969) [19:27]
Diane Porteous (cello); Kathryn Page (piano)
Recorded: Whiteley Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, July 2003 (Drakeford, Holmboe) and August 2004 (Williamson)


Drakeford’s Cello Suite, completed in 1958 when the composer was still a student at Oxford University, was dedicated to Rohan de Saram. The piece, in five short and contrasted movements, is clearly modelled on Bach’s suites for cello but the music is audibly of our time. It displays a remarkable assurance, a real understanding of the instrument’s qualities and a good deal of inventiveness. This early piece, by no means an apprentice work, is a considerable achievement, comparable to Jolivet’s Suite en concert for solo cello. Drakeford’s music is, I am ashamed to say, new to me. If his later output is anything like as fine as this piece, I would certainly want to hear more of it.

John R. Williamson is a composer dear to my heart, whose music I have come to admire sincerely. It all began when I got to know some of his piano music (Dunelm DRD 0134 and DRD 0176) and a selection of Housman settings (Dunelm DRD 0133 and DRD 0218). His Cello Sonata No.2, completed a few years ago as a result of the composer’s "total dissatisfaction with the content of (my) first sonata", is a substantial piece of music in four movements, of which the second movement - a theme and variations - is the weightiest. The first movement functions as a prelude stating material worked out in the following movements. The theme and variations explores a wide range of feelings and emotions. This followed by a restless and often troubled Scherzo. This imposing work is capped by a grand finale ending with powerful, emphatic chords. Undoubtedly this is a major, mature work and a splendid addition to the British repertoire for cello. It certainly deserves wider exposure and I sincerely hope that cellists will put it quickly into their repertoire.

Though it is a work dating from Holmboe’s full maturity, the Sonata for Cello Op.101 is not unlike the Drakeford Cello Suite. It is modelled on Bach’s suites and includes a fugal movement in which counterpoint is expertly suggested, preceded by a weighty introduction. This is followed by a slow Introduzione functioning as a short slow movement and as a bridge leading into the finale. It is good to see Holmboe’s music taken-up by non-Danish musicians. Diane Porteous plays it and the other works with dedication and commitment as well as technical assurance.

In short, this very fine release offers a most interesting and rewarding recital. This selection of contemporary works ought to be known and appreciated more widely. All receive premiere recordings here. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot

see also review by Patrick Waller

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