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Richard DRAKEFORD (b.1936) Cello Suite Ė for Rohan de Saram (1957-8) [9:22]
John R. WILLIAMSON (b.1929) Cello Sonata No. 2 (2001) [22:46]
Vagn HOLMBOE (1909-1996) Solo Cello Sonata (1969) [19:27]
Diane Porteous (cello); Kathryn Page (piano)
Recorded in The Whiteley Hall, Chethamís School of Music, Manchester 2004


£10.95 from your local retailer or directly from
Dunelm Records, 2 Park Close, Glossop, Derbyshire SK13 7RQ
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As a follow up to Diane Porteousís earlier Dunelm CD featuring works by Schumann, Matthew Taylor and Sibelius she presents here a most rewarding recital disc of little known works for the instrument. The Cello Suite by Richard Drakeford is an early piece written while the composer was studying at Oxford in the late 1950s. Resident in the town at that time was the brilliant Rohan de Saram, later to become cellist with the Arditti Quartet. Drakefordís work is serious in tone and explores the whole range of the cello in a virtuoso fashion. The musical language might best be equated with Alan Rawsthorne, a composer who was certainly in vogue at the time. The work abounds in expressive energy and would not be out of place alongside more well known pieces for solo cello like the Britten Suites or the superb series of works by Vainberg. The performance captures well the changing moods and often intense character of the piece.

In John R. Williamsonís Cello Sonata No. 2, Diane Porteous is joined by pianist Kathryn Page. Few modern works for cello and piano of more recent vintage than those by Shostakovich and Prokofiev are regularly played. This is unfortunate as the medium is rich in expressive potential. This second sonata by Williamson (he has withdrawn the first sonata) is a major addition to the repertoire. The first movement presents lyrical ideas of a modal nature that sound like unconscious distant relatives of those in Rubbraís 2nd Violin Sonata. Williamson underpins them with dissonant harmonies that lend the whole movement a quality of regret. The dark mood is continued in the theme and variations that follows. The theme is again modal and the variations flow one into the other; indeed the movement seems to progress more through organic development than as a conventional variation set. Variation 5 is particularly fine Ė fancifully perhaps, it seems to evoke, for this listener, memories of Housman settings by Butterworth or Graham Peel. The scherzo finds Williamson quoting from the scherzo of Elgarís Cello Concerto. It is impossible to know what psychological need this fulfils for the composer but for the listener it serves to emphasise a lineage to early 20th century British masters and to a certain emotional similarity with works such as Elgarís concerto. The quality of lament in the slow movement of the Rubbra work mentioned earlier might provide comparison here. Surely the sense of tragic loss inherent in some of Housmanís poetry is pertinent to Williamson, more especially since the composer has set many of the poetís works. The finale finds the composer attempting a grand summing up which feels somewhat ironic. Material from the previous movements intrudes towards the end, both providing cohesion but also returning the work to its dark emotional core. Williamson thus concludes a work that poses many emotional questions within a tightly organised compositional plan. Throughout the sonata the two instruments are presented as equals in a continual imitative interplay with little technical grandstanding. The performers capture the logic and mood climate of the work well. They make a good case for the pieceís inclusion in the repertoire of all cello/piano duos.

The Sonata by Vagn Holmboe, dating from 1969, features the rich-toned cello of Diane Porteous alone once more. The four movements make up a substantial work for the instrument. The fugare 2nd movement is particularly exciting with kaleidoscopic changes of mood. The eerie harmonics of the 3rd movement make for a meditative experience whilst the finale jostles rhythms against one another in a most pleasing way.

This recording is worth exploring for its little known repertoire and committed performances. The Williamson is something of a find and should now gain more recognition.

David Hackbridge Johnson

see also review by Ian Milnes

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