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Arnold COOKE (1906-2005)
Three String Sonatas

Violin Sonata No. 2 (1951) [22:24]
Viola Sonata (1937) [21:20]
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1980) [23:58]
Susanne Stanzeleit (violin)
Morgan Goff (viola)
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Raphael Terroni (piano)
rec. 2, 9, 16 Oct 2005, Music Hall, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. DDD
world premiere recordings
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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 the Devil.

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 and clarinet.

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 Society’s Newsletter.

Rob Barnett

Further information about Arnold Cooke

The British Music Society



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