One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

The British Cello Phenomenon
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Overture; William Tell (part 1)
Douglas Cameron/National Symphony Orchestra/Karl Rankl
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Gamba Sonata BWV 1027 (Adagio)
John Barbirolli/Ethel Bartlett (piano)
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)

Berceuse de Jocelyn
W.H. Squire/Hamilton Harty (piano)
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)

Beatrice Harrison/Orchestra/Eric Fenby
David POPPER (1843-1913)

Polonaise de Concert Op.14
Cedric Sharpe/Cecil Dixon (piano)
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

To Spring
Felix Salmond/Piano
David POPPER (1843-1913)

Hungarian Fantasy
Lauri Kennedy/Dorothy Kennedy (piano)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Samson et Dalila – Softly Wakes My Heart
Anthony Pini/Ensemble
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Sleeping beauty-Vision Scene-Act II Op.66
Raymond Clark/orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Constant Lambert
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Reg Kilbey/Jack Byfield
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)

Sonata in G minor Op.60 – Vivace flessibile
William Pleeth/Edmund Rubbra (piano)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Alan Dalziel/John Constable (piano)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Cello Sonata No.2 Op.117 – Andante
Thomas Igloi/Clifford Benson
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune – arranged Keith Harvey
Keith Harvey/Linn Hendry (piano)
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)

Jacqueline du Pré/Newbury String Players/Christopher Finzi
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
I Masnadieri-Overture (part)
Norman Jones/Philharmonia/Umberto Gardelli
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)

Morning, Noon and Night-Overture (part)
Denis Vigay/Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Arpeggione Sonata – Allegretto
Derek Simpson/Ernest Lush (piano)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Suite in D minor BWV 1008 (Allemande and Courante)
Douglas Cummings
Henri DUTILLEUX (b.1916)

Strophe No.3
Moray Welsh
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)

Pohadka III
Christopher van Kampen/Ian Brown (piano)
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) – Arranged Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Barber of Seville – Figaro’s Aria
Raphael Wallfisch/Linn Hendry (piano)
Zóltan KODÁLY (1882-1967)

Solo Sonata Op.8 – Allegro molto Vivace (only)
Colin Carr
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)

Albumblätter Nos.5 and 12
Alexander Baillie/Dominic Harlan
William WALTON (1902-1983)

Cello Concerto (Allegro appassionato only)
Robert Cohen/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Après un rêve
Steven Isserlis/Stephen Hough (piano)
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) arranged Johan HALVORSEN (1864-1935)
Theme and Variations
Tim Hugh
Henry WOOD (1869-1944)

Fantasia on British Sea Songs – Tom Bowling
Clive Greensmith/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Davis
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)

Paul Watkins/BBC Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Davis
Recorded c1911-2003
CELLO CLASSICS CC1010 [2 CDs: 77.45 + 79.23]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS Budget price


27 Windsor Road
London N3 3SN
Phone 0208 346 1480
Fax 0208 349 4339

Thinking of string players generally the British Violin School earns a chapter in Schwarz’s Great Masters of the Violin and runs from Carrodus, John Saunders and W.E. Henley to John Dunn, Marie Hall, Isolde Menges, Arthur Catterall and Albert Sammons (which takes us to those born around 1892.). And the viola lineage has long been secure: Alfred Hobday, Lionel Tertis, William Primrose, Frederick Riddle and Watson Forbes are the most pre-eminent. But what of the Cello School? You may recall Beatrice Harrison for her Elgar, Delius and Nightingales and Du Pré of course nearer our own time. But in between? Maybe Pini and William Pleeth, though for the non-specialists the latter probably more as a teacher than as a recording artist. Certainly not a great number, at least not until the present day when we have Lloyd-Webber, Isserlis, Watkins, Cohen, Hugh, Clein, Baillie, Wallfisch, Welsh and many more, a number happily here on the second disc of this set.

So it’s apt to salute the Cellistic Tradition in a two-part survey, which takes in Historical and Modern in pretty even measure. We begin with one of the doyens of post-War British cello playing, Douglas Cameron. As well as being an authoritative and famous teacher (five of his students are scattered throughout the discs) he was a superb principal and chamber player. We hear him in a snatch from the William Tell Overture, which despite the documentation here actually has a different Decca number. The unknown conductor was actually Karl Rankl and the disc was made on 8th February 1945 (not 1948 – apologies for anorakish pedantry). A near contemporary was John Barbirolli here heard in one of his National Gramophonic Society discs with pianist Ethel Bartlett – with plenty of portamenti, great expression, and not too agile a technique. W.H. Squire follows, a Herefordshireman and dedicatee of Fauré’s Sicilienne. He made numerous sides for HMV and Columbia and was playing as late as the 1940s, having earlier established a recording trio with Sammons and Murdoch. On disc he was often, as here, partnered by Hamilton Harty and we can admire Squire’s luscious portamenti and emotive generosity in this little evergreen. The disc sounds in fine shape though I’d rather Cello Classics had gone instead for the Sicilienne, which he did record.

Beatrice Harrison’s Delius Elegy with Fenby has made previous appearances so perhaps one of her less tractable 78s could have been substituted and Cedric Sharpe’s Popper Polonaise has already been used on Pearl’s ‘Cello on Record’ series. Sharpe was the victim of one of the funnier BBC gags when, having mucked about once too often in rehearsal, he was privately reprimanded by the orchestra’s manager who told Adrian Boult afterwards: ‘I have spoken to C Sharpe and he is now D Flat’. Sharpe was in fact an old hand, member of the Philharmonic Quartet during the First War alongside Eugene Goossens and Arthur Beckwith and a regular in the Sammons-Tertis-Murdoch Chamber Players group. He plays the Popper with charm and fine rhythm and a real dash of nobility. Though Beatrice Harrison was to become known as one of the premier British cellists of her generation it was Felix Salmond who gave the first performance of the Elgar Concerto (and of some of the chamber works as well). His influence in America was abiding and his importance to American cellists hard to overstate. He was yet another in the Sammons-Tertis-Murdoch group of elite British chamber players; regrettably he left behind no recordings with them. His Grieg is beautifully measured and lyric, even if the copy used is slightly scuffy. Lauri Kennedy followed Salmond and Sharpe into the Chamber Players and it’s one of the great injustices of recording history that this group left behind no gramophone recordings. His Popper shows why he was so admired – the technique is rock solid, the tone alluring, and the musicianship unquestionable. Anthony Pini is here with an ensemble supporting him in Saint-Saëns with registral leaps and finesse and so is Reginald Kilbey, captured in his early 1970s. Section leaders and lighter players are part of the very fabric of cellistic life and it’s right that Kilbey takes his place here. Pleeth appears with Edmund Rubbra in the Vivace flessibile from the latter’s Sonata, a BBC Transcription recording from 1959. They were old friends and colleagues, having formed a Wartime trio and Pleeth’s intense, sinewy tone and command of dynamic gradations suits Rubbra’s music perfectly. The whole Sonata has been preserved and it would be good to hear it all. The notes speak of Alan Dalziel’s Fauré as "passionate" and this is one of the few occasions I’d part company with Michael Jameson. The early Du Pré was passionate but I hear in Dalziel grave nobility and a tightly controlled vibrato – attractively so. The tragic Hungarian-born Thomas Igloi is here in the slow movement of the same composer’s Second Sonata, taped by the BBC the year before Igloi’s death at the age of twenty-nine. He has the span for it and the colour and one can only mourn his unfulfilled promise. Keith Harvey, student of Douglas Cameron, is an experienced and adaptable musician as this arrangement of the Debussy shows with its exotic patina – and he’s also a record collector, which is even more in his favour. The first disc ends with the piece plugged on the cover, Du Pré’s recently discovered Rubbra Soliloquy. This is dated to 1965 but a bit of detective work shows it was recorded on 27 June in Great Bedwynn Church, Marlborough with Christopher Finzi’s Newbury Strings Players and some reinforcements – it’s actually scored for strings, two horns and timpani. Any unearthed Du Pré is exciting – and she was probably put onto the Rubbra by her teacher William Pleeth (in fact a private recording of Pleeth playing it does exist.) This brooding work responds well to her intense vibrato usage and tonal qualities. She catches the vehemence at its heart and explores the often-misunderstood schema of the piece with visceral temperament. Given the rarity value of this performance one shouldn’t be too critical of the sound though it is true that the orchestral sound is mushy and indistinct and Du Pré is unduly spot lit; it’s sometimes hard to make out if there are two horns there at all. As a performance, for all the passionate articulacy of her performance, I tend to favour the de Saram recording with Handley – he’s more incisive over tempo and his natural restraint pays rich rewards. But one must be grateful for this harvest, this unexpected Du Pré bounty.

There is less to say about the second disc. Most of the cellists are still with us; some indeed are – let’s take Paul Watkins – mere striplings in comparison with the venerable old timers. And a number of the works are extracted from available commercial discs. It’s good that Norman Jones and Denis Vigay are showcased in their orchestral solos – these fine players more than deserve it especially as the opportunities for solo recordings are few. Derek Simpson turns in a neat Allegretto from the Arpeggione Sonata with that most welcoming of accompanists, Ernest Lush, whom Sammons valued higher as a string accompanist than Gerald Moore. Valuable to have Douglas Cummings’ Bach – aristocratically played – and then we are on to some taxing repertoire. Moray Welsh copes splendidly with the Dutilleux, Wallfisch turns in a Castelnuovo-Tedesco/Rossini Figaro transcription, a piece with which Heifetz used to sizzle the speakers (did Wallfisch learn it from his teacher Piatigorsky, a Heifetz confidante or from the fiddler himself?) We get some excerpts from recordings and broadcasts that are well enough known; of them I’d draw attention to an unascribed (radio?) performance of Halvorsen’s Theme and Variations for solo cello given by intrepid Tim Hugh. This is better known to string fanciers as the Passacaglia from the Seventh Keyboard Suite and has been virtuosically rejigged here.

Well, that’s it. Twenty-nine cellists and a wide range of pieces, source material, accompaniments, sound quality and stylistic imperatives. But I’m greedy. Like Oliver, I want more. So then let’s casually suggest it to Sebastian Comberti of Cello Classics. What about a follow-up, nicely transferred, of the following; Peter Muscant (on Aco), and princely C Warwick Evans of the London Quartet, globe trotter May Mukle on American Victor (she of the MM Club near Oxford Circus) and Peers Coetmore (Moeran’s wife) on Regal. While we’re about it let’s summon up Joseph Schofield on Marathon and let’s go right back to W.E. Whitehouse even if only as a cello obbligatist. Yes, van Biene should be there as well – and Howard Bliss, Arthur’s talented brother most definitely; let’s dust off his Vocalions. And then. ... well, maybe that’s enough for now. Let’s be happy we have what we have here. No need to be D Flat about this one.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.