This disc has something
of a “home-made” feel to it. In the world of food that would
obviously be regarded as a compliment. Here you might imagine
it to be intended as a criticism but not so. This may not be
a “mass production” but certainly there is plenty of professionalism
evident in all aspects of this enterprise. The worst thing I
can find to say about it is that Holmboe’s
name is mis-spelt on the front cover (only) but I am sure you have
already spotted that for yourself on the image above. That’s
a pity since the documentation is otherwise excellent and is
even printed on higher quality paper than seems to be the norm.
The notes for the first two works are written by their composers
and Diane Porteous contributes for
the Holmboe. The disc itself comes with a warning that it is
a “CD-R” and may not play on some older CD players.
My usual formula
for a review (although I do try to vary it) is music, performance,
sound, documentation. Having started
at the end, I shall continue to work backwards and say now that
the recorded sound is excellent. For me, recording a solo cello
(as in the Drakeford and Holmboe pieces) is very much a question of getting
the right perspective and that certainly seems to have been
achieved here. When the piano is included (in the Williamson),
the two instruments are beautifully balanced. The acoustic seems
ideal for the music and the overall effect is most natural throughout.
is an up-and-coming artist who studied with Raphael Wallfisch
and Paul Watkins. I am sure we shall hear more of her in the
future. It seems sensible for her to be recording unusual repertoire
at this stage and she convinces in all three works. Kathryn
Page seems to have a particular interest in contemporary music
and in the Williamson sonata she is an ideal partner (I almost
wrote accompanist but that would probably have been wrong).
so to the music. I was attracted to the disc on the strength
of Holmboe’s name, feeling I ought to be exploring beyond the
symphonies which are amongst the finest of the late 20th
century. I had assumed that Williamson would be Malcolm, late
Master of the Queens’ Music and have
not come across John R., or Richard Drakeford,
Suite is a student work written for Rohan
de Saram whilst the composer was at
In five movements, it lasts just under ten minutes and is partly
modelled on a Bach suite but the most
obvious audible influence seems to be Shostakovich. The prelude
is in two sections, opening with deeply-felt slow rhapsodic
material, and after a short section marked Vivace it leads without a break to a demanding fugue. The third movement
is a lyrical Sarabande and the fourth a generally lively Badinerie. The finale is marked Coda and recapitulates the
opening. For a student work, this is assured writing and it
is certainly worth an airing.
Williamson’s Second Cello Sonata
four movements and the composer tells us that the overall construction
is “basically classical”. He also indicates that he was dissatisfied
with his first cello sonata and that it has been “set aside
as unworthy of performance”. The outer movements are moderately
fast, the second is a set of variations based on a slow intense
theme, whilst the third movement is a scherzo. As implied above,
the piano seems to be an equal partner for much of the work.
This is original and melodious music that sounds “post-Vaughan
Williams” and is none the worse for that. On occasions I was
also reminded of George Lloyd but there are often deeper undertones.
I think this is a very fine work and would be interested in
hearing more of the composer’s music. He seems to have been
quite prolific since settling into serious composition in his
fifties and in particular, he has written a cello concerto.
This does not seem have been recorded yet, although there are
discs of his piano music and Housman song settings available
on the Dunelm label.
for solo cello is a dark, powerful work in three movements:
prelude, fugue and two-part finale with a slow introduction.
There is the same sense of organic growth here which characterizes
his symphonies. Throughout the work tension is created between
the tonalities of C and D. His fellow countryman Nielsen was
one of the first composers to use such a device and, although
his idiom is different, it would be hard to believe that Holmboe
was not influenced by his great Danish predecessor. The first
movement is particularly impressive and Diane Porteous
plays it for all it is worth. The second movement is unsettled
and often challenges the lower range of the instrument. In the
finale, the extended introduction is rapt and the Allegro
giocoso which follows is, despite the marking, often only
marginally less profound than what has gone before.
So, it’s bravo to
small enterprise! Why listen to yet another version of a well-known
work by a well-known artist on a major label when you can explore
material as interesting and well-played as this? Holmboe’s
sonata is undoubtedly the greatest work here but all this music
is worth getting to know and Williamson’s sonata is a fine example
of highly accessible contemporary music.
Patrick C Waller
Milnes and David