Arnold Cooke is of
the unfashionable Cheltenham generation
of composers active at zenith during
the period 1945-75. Their time may not
yet have come but at least they are
gradually accruing discs in the CD catalogue.
The BMS have shown good judgement in
selecting his chamber music. While Cooke’s
eightieth birthday saw some of his chamber
music issued on Meridian there has been
precious little else except the mid-1970s
Lyrita LP of the Third Symphony and
the suite for the ballet Jabez and
Cooke was born in Gomersal,
Yorkshire on 4 November 1906. He studied
at Cambridge University (1925-29) and
went to Berlin to study with Hindemith
(1929-32). His works include the unperformed
operas: Mary Barton (1949-54,
based on Mrs Gaskell’s novel about oppression
and the industrial unrest therefore
worth comparing with the Alan Bush operas
such as Men of Blackmoor) and
The Invisible Duke (1975-6, one
act). There are six symphonies: 1946-7;
1963; 1967-8; 1973-4; 1978-9 and 1983-4.
The concertos include ones for Piano
(1939); Oboe (1954); Clarinet No. 1
(1955); Violin (1958); Cello (1974)
and Clarinet No. 2 (1981-2). Five string
quartets lie at the core of his chamber
works as well as two each sonatas for
violin and for cello and ones for oboe
The 1951 Violin
Sonata displays all the confident
exuberance of Festival of Britain year
in its two framing allegros. The accent
of those two exciting movements is quite
similar to that of Rawsthorne at the
same time; they share his emotional
coolness. Perhaps the fugal patterning
of the finale also contributes to that
impression. Susanne Stanzeleit is already
a practised hand in such repertoire.
She is fully the equal of the work’s
demands both in demonstrative virtuosity
and in the tranquillity of the Andante.
At 4:08 in the third movement her singing
tone suggests a modernized Lark ascendant.
Cooke’s time with Hindemith in Berlin
(1929-32) is evident from the sometimes
effortful angularity of the Viola
Sonata especially in the sometimes
motoric outer movements. It is dedicated
to Keith Cumming and Lucy Pierce who
gave the premiere at London’s Aeolian
Hall in 1937. As with the Violin Sonata
No. 2 the central movement is the poetic
heart. Its fragile lyricism again has
Rawsthorne-like contours; compare the
Symphonic Studies. Those same
feminine yet assured contours can also
be traced through the themes of the
latest work here, the four movement
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1979-80)
which here is in the experienced hands
of a cellist whose recorded repertoire
is stupefyingly wide, Raphael Wallfisch.
His attention to dynamics is remarkable.
In this and in the other sterling qualities
necessary to the successful advocacy
of these often emotionally cool works
he is closely matched by Raphael Terroni.
There is a particularly lovely Lento.
One soon gets to look forward to the
Cooke slow movements; so rewarding are
they in their reticence and expression.
The scherzo is typically clear in its
textures and layout.
None of these sonatas
are in any way dissonant or difficult.
If there is some discouragement to communication
it is their emotional reserve.
Throughout this BMS
disc the unifier and constant presence
is the sensitive and technically doughty
pianist Raphael Terroni. Mr Terroni
has been constant in another way. His
recordings of Cyril Scott and Eugene
Goossens appeared more than 25 years
ago as the BMS’s first cassette.
The booklet is admirably
specific with a personal reminiscence
of the composer, a really good centenary
essay by John Talbot, artist profiles,
details of the BMS and full track-listing.
If there is a downside it is a slight
one: the use of a queasy orange and
glum terracotta on the front and on
rear insert which provides insufficient
contrast for reading. A lighter ground
and black lettering would have made
for improved clarity and definition.
Otherwise this is an admirable effort
that deserves to do well. The technical
side is extremely well handled by Producer,
John Talbot and Engineer, Paul Arden-Taylor.
This is a fine disc
of repertoire that has never been commercially
recorded before. It opens a door onto
yet another rewarding voice from a once
disdained generation. There is much
more to be discovered if my recollections
of the Fourth Symphony and the Cello
Concerto are anything to go by.
Again I must declare
my interest as a member of the British
Music Society and the editor of the
Further information about Arnold Cooke
British Music Society