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Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
CD 1 [59:55]
Folk-Tale (1918) [9:20]
Sonata for cello and piano (1923) [34:25]
Sonatina for cello and piano (1933) [16:04]
CD 2 [45:44]
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)

Legend-Sonata for cello and piano (1943) [25:53]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)

Divertimento for solo cello (1955) [12:04]
Elegy for cello and piano (1959) [7:41]
Florence Hooton (cello)
Wilfred Parry (piano)
rec. The Music Room, July, September 1958 (Bax); July, November 1958 (Jacob). ADD. MONO. Originally issued on mono LP by Lyrita Recorded Edition: RCS6 (Legend-Sonata and Jacob); RCS7 (other Bax works)
Double CD set
LYRITA REAM.2104 [59:55 + 45:44]

Experience Classicsonline


These are late 1950s recordings made by Richard Itter in The Music Room. They 'speak' with enthusiasm and burning conviction. The restoration has evidently been done with as much affection as technical skill.

It is difficult to imagine how much of a wasteland the Bax catalogue was when these mono recordings were made; still less when they were issued. They were made only five years after Bax's death and released a further five or so years later. They were among the earliest releases of a small company that had glimmered into existence and might easily have been snuffed out. No such fate awaited Lyrita although it has had long periods of hibernation.

Wyastone Estates are committed to reissuing the entire Lyrita catalogue including the mono tapes originally issued on RCS vinyl. We have already seen the Alan Rowlands Ireland set and the Bax Loveridge discs are due out soon. Here Florence Hooton (1912-1988) presents Bax's chamber works for cello. The only omission is the Rhapsodic Ballad for solo cello which at the time of these sessions was held by the dedicatee Bernard Vocadlo. It was only in the early 1980s that first Rohan de Saram – wonderful cellist too little heard from - included the premiere recording on a Pearl LP (SHE547) and then Rapahel Wallfisch recorded it for Chandos (CHAN 8499).

There is little competition for this Hooton set even now. In substance the only other choice is the ASV CD (CD DCA 896) by Bernard Gregor-Smith and Yolande Wrigley.

Hooton and Wilfred Parry first turn to the two cello works of the teens and twenties of the last century. The first is the compact Folk-Tale which concentrates on tender almost fragile lyricism and on curvaceous easy-going folk-inflected melody. This was also recorded by Moray Welsh and Roger Vignoles on a Pearl LP (SHE571). The 1923 Cello Sonata is a big work of concerto proportions. It certainly recalls the Cello Concerto a fragmentary recording of which, in the hands of Beatrice Harrison, survives on Symposium 1150 (see review) and has of course been recorded by Raphael Wallfisch on Chandos CHAN 8494 (see review). Hooton played the Concerto with the BBC Northern conducted by John Hopkins which was broadcast and a recording survives in private hands. The Sonata is a darker work than the Folk-Tale and in its concentration and sturdy flow is more successful than the problematic Concerto. It is played with wonderful passion by Hooton and Parry. There is magic too in the poco lento second movement which sounds very much like the start of the 1913 Spring Fire Symphony. A grumpy bass underpinning suggests a jolly war-dance with perhaps a hint of Percy Grainger about its skip in the step. The Epilogue is thoughtful and commanding. Then comes the little Sonatina - again in three movements but almost exactly half as long as the Sonata. It is a gentle work with more of the feeling of a serenade or cassation about it. Folksong is central to its Andante.

The recording of the Legend-Sonata has more presence to it than the Bax cello works on CD1. It is given a mordantly aggressive edge by Hooton and Parry. It naturally has the Bax manner but the creative bite and grip of the Sonata and Folk-Tale are nowhere near as strong. Bax's orchestral Legend (tone poem) of about the same time also shows confidence but the ideas and resolution that drove or wooed the Furies in November Woods, in Fand and even in the Northern Ballads is only passingly present. There are some really nice moments here though: for example in the Lento Espressivo.

If you enjoy the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata do try these Bax works.

Ten years separate each of the Bax works on this set. Two years after Bax's death came the Gordon Jacob Divertimento for solo cello and four years after that the Elegy. The compact four-movement Divertimento - dedicated to and premiered by Hooton - has a patterned, and for me rather empty, Prelude. The spirit of Bach must inevitably hold sway over such works unless you are a Kodaly. The dignified beauty of the lengthy Improvisation more than compensates with its luscious and somehow Iberian pizzicato which returns in the final Rondino. The Minuet and Trio mixes a Bachian intensity with guitar-like sonorities. Jacob's Elegy was written for Hooton and is In Memoriam S.W.J. This work has the brooding storm-clouds intensity of Rubbra's Soliloquy. I wonder if it exists in a version with orchestra.

The sound throughout these discs is grainy and fragile especially on CD1. Hooton's involvement is undoubted but in the case of the Folk-Tale only her technical apparatus when her playing was no longer at full peak does rather show. I did not notice any awkwardness in her playing of other works.

Note the wonderfully long silences between the works. This shows real attention to detail by Lyrita and Wyastone. This is by no means a hurried or scouted over production.

I declare my interest as the writer - more compiler really - of the disc's programme note about Florence Hooton. An extended version of that note appears at the end of this review.

Unlike the viola, violin and piano the cello has been a Cinderella in the Bax output. Only ASV have attempted a single set. The triumph in this Hooton set is the impressive Cello Sonata which should surprise a few Baxians and others now they can hear this version in the best possible sound from original master sources. Admirers of Gordon Jacob and of British music in general should also find much here to enjoy. You need to be open-minded and realistic about the sound but it is heart-warming to be able to welcome them back into the light of common day.
Rob Barnett


ALSO AVAILABLE

SRCD.231 Boult conducts Bax
SRCD.232 Bax Symphonies Nos. 1 & 7
SRCD.233 Bax Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5
SRCD.296 Bax Symphony No. 6
SRCD.315 Gordon Jacob Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
 

Florence Hooton (1912-1988) – a Biographical Note

Florence Hooton, OBE died on 14 May 1988 when her reputation was firmly established as a cello teacher. She became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in 1964 but also gave private lessons in Suffolk and Sheffield. Her role as a teacher was only the most recent aspect of her life. In fact in the 1930s and 1940s she had been extremely active as a performer and only retired from concert-giving in 1978.

Hooton was born in Scarborough where her first lessons were given by her father, himself a professional cellist who had been a student of Warwick Evans, a member of the London String Quartet. She then studied with Douglas Cameron at the London Violoncello School (1927–9) and this continued after she had gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music (1929–34). The Academy’s collection includes a striking portrait of her by Wilfred G. von Glehn RA, 1936. Her concert and academic life is bridged by Gordon Jacob’s four movement Cello Octet which was commissioned by her in 1981 for her students at the Academy where memory is also marked by the annual David Martin/Florence Hooton Concerto Prize.

Given that her activities tended to be restricted to the British Isles it is also worth remembering that she studied with Emanuel Feuermann in Zurich. Feuermann made an enduring impression on her and she recalled many years later his vitality and enthusiasm as well as his profound technical skills. On one occasion he had played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto to her without transposition.

Her debut recital came in 1934 at the Wigmore Hall. This led to her appearance in the Promenade season alongside Frederick Grinke and Dorothy Manley in the Beethoven Triple Concerto. She soon became much associated with the music of contemporary British composers: 1934 saw her giving the first performance of Gordon Jacob's Divertimento for Unaccompanied Cello which Jacob dedicated to her.

Hooton was a dedicated chamber music executant working as a member of the Grinke Trio including violinist, Frederic Grinke and pianist, Dorothy Manley. Manley had been her accompanist at Hooton’s Wigmore Hall debut. From 1956 to 1976 she formed the Loveridge-Martin-Hooton Trio with pianist, Iris Loveridge and violinist, David Martin. She married David Martin in 1938 and they had two daughters.

She also had the distinction of being the first cellist to put in an appearance on the nascent British television service in the studios at Alexandra Palace. There she played the Haydn D Major Concerto alongside two dancers whose names were then largely unknown; Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann.

She premiered cello concertos by Gordon Jacob and Kenneth Leighton and Alan Bush’s Concert Suite. All three had been written for her. The Leighton was given at the Cheltenham Festival under Sir John Barbirolli. The first performance of the William Busch cello concerto was undertaken by her on 18 December 1941 with B Walton O’Donnell of the Oxbridge RAF Orchestra. Hooton played the Busch again shortly afterwards, this time with the BBCSO under Sir Adrian Boult. She also championed the work of the much neglected figure associated with the Ireland Piano Concerto, Helen Perkin. Hooton joined Harriet Cohen for the premiere of Arnold Bax's Legend-Sonata and continuing the Bax connection also performed the Cello Concerto and other works for cello although not the Rhapsodic Ballad. She recorded all Bax’s cello works, apart from the Rhapsodic Ballad, in the mid-1960s and these were issued by Richard Itter’s Lyrita Recorded Edition on two mono RCS LPs (1965, 1967).

At a public BBC Contemporary Music concert on 18 January 1936 at Broadcasting House with the BBC Symphony Orchestra she premiered Oration – Concerto Elegiaco - a work that had been turned down by Felix Salmond and by Suggia. The composer was not prepared to make changes to it and then remembered Hooton. He had heard her giving a modern music concert which he attended with Benjamin Britten at Duke's Hall at the Academy. Bridge commented at the time: 'If that girl gets one more of those top notes spot-on I'm going round to ask if she'd like to give the first performance of my cello concerto.' After the premiere he wrote to her thanking her for 'the way you got above the technical considerations and found what I think is in the work'.

She was active in the recording studio during 1939 and 1940. For Decca she recorded John Ireland's Trio No.3 in E Minor with Grinke and the composer in 1939 (X242/244). This was a work of which she had given the first public performance with the same players on 20 June 1938 at Boosey & Hawkes’ Music Room, Regent Street. The other entries in her Decca diary include K899/900 Ireland Phantasie Trio (Grinke Trio, with whom she performed 1933-45), K904 Webern trio op. 21 (Kathleen Washbourne String Trio), K945/936 Bridge Phantasie Trio (Grinke Trio) and X263/64 Stravinsky Suite Italienne (with Gerald Moore). She was the cellist for an LP of all three Ireland trios in December 1963: Saga XID 5230 and played to the composer in a trio at his house during Ireland’s last days.

She broadcast extensively for the BBC Third Programme including Richard Arnell’s Four Serious Pieces with Wilfred Parry, Arnold Bax’s Cello Concerto with John Hopkins conducting the BBC Northern, Gordon Jacob’s Cello Concerto with Harvey Phillips and his orchestra, Jacob’s Piano Trio with Loveridge and Martin, Leighton’s Cello Concerto with Rudolf Schwarz and the BBCSO and Leighton’s Partita with the composer – a work she had premiered with Wilfred Parry at the Wigmore Hall in February 1963. Two other broadcasts merit a mention: John B McEwen’s Improvisations Provençals and the Cello Concerto of the now profoundly forgotten Briton, Ivor Walsworth’s with Meredith Davies and the BBC Welsh Orchestra.

Her fixtures were by no means linked exclusively with the prominent names and orchestras. Her concert honours include ones in Cambridge in 1964 with the Albion Orchestra conducted by Cyril Bell, with Gordon Jacob as guest conductor, the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra with Gaze Cooper and the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra with whom she played a Boccherini Cello Concerto and the Elgar.

Asked once about her move to teaching she said, "The concert platform is a great draw and you have no idea how much you miss it. Communication between you and your audience is something that feeds you as a musician. But once you can redirect that energy into teaching and begin to see results then you have all the compensation you need."

Rob Barnett
With thanks to Jonathan Woolf and others who contributed generously with facts and reminiscences.

 


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