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Complete Chamber Works for Cello
Partita for cello and piano, Op.35 (1959) [20:58]
Elegy for cello and piano, Op.5 (1950) [6:43]
Sonata for cello solo, Op.52 (1967) [18:33]
Alleluia Pascha Nostrum for cello and piano, Op.85 (1970)
Raphael Wallfisch (cello); Raphael Terroni (piano)
rec. Menuhin Hall, Yehudi Menuhin School, Stoke d’Abernon, Cobham,
Surrey, 8 April 2009, 18 February 2010. DDD
BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY BMS439CD [61:03]
Declaration of interest: I am a life member of the British Music
Society (BMS) and am currently editor of the Society’s quarterly
If Chandos is the home of the orchestral Leighton (review
then Meridian must be seen as the prime source for the composer’s
chamber music (review
Restricting ourselves to instrumental music let’s not forget
also the Delphian triple CD set from Angela Brownridge (review)
and Margaret Fingerhut’s two collections on Chandos (review
The present utterly committed performances and excellent recordings
of Leighton’s works for cello and piano remind us that we need
to cast our nets wider than just those three companies.
Enduring respect, friendships and artist links are reflected
in the Leighton performance history and discography. That continues
with this disc. Richard Markham was the pianist on the Meridian
CD of the Piano Quintet, Piano Trio and Piano Quartet. He broadcast
the Piano Concerto No 3 with Nicholas Kraemer conducting the
BBC Scottish. Wallfisch’s long-established recording of the
Leighton Cello Concerto came out in 1989 when Leighton discs
were very rare indeed. He was the cellist in the Finzi-dedicated
Veris Gratia recorded in 1986 with George Caird (oboe)
on Chandos CHAN 8471 (with the second recording of Finzi Cello
Concerto). The Leighton was premiered at the Cheltenham Festival
in 1956 with Florence Hooton and was later taken up by Maurice
Gendron. Hooton broadcast the Partita in 1963 from the
Wigmore Hall. Wallfisch father and son have played a core role
in advocating Leighton. Peter Wallfisch performed and broadcast
the first two piano concertos with the BBC Scottish; indeed
he premiered the first with the composer conducting. Peter also
gave broadcast recitals including Leighton’s Fantasia Contrapuntistica
and Piano Sonata as well as accompanying Christopher Bunting
in the Elegy and de Peyer in Fantasy on an American
Hymn Tune. The Wallfisch-Leighton connection is also to
be heard on a 1995 Chandos (CHAN 9132: Fantasy on an American
Hymn-Tune Op.70 for clarinet, cello and piano, Alleluia Pascha
Nostrum Op. 85 for cello and piano, Variations for Piano Op.
3, Piano Sonata - Janet Hilton (clarinet), Peter and Raphael
Wallfisch recorded at the Snape Maltings in May 1992).
Turning now to the disc under consideration: The Partita
is in three seriously inclined and impassioned movements
as if engaged on a lonely pilgrimage across a darkling plain.
Rather as with the 1956 Cello Concerto some of this work has
a distinctly East European fire. The central Scherzo is an example.
The finale is a Theme and Variations. It’s quite magical
- starry, at times flamingly emotional yet ends in sidereal
Miltonian majesty. The two instruments are primus inter pares
- equally imaginative and involving whether Terroni or Wallfisch.
In the Leighton catalogue this work was flanked by the 1958
The Light Invisible - Sinfonia Sacra and the Piano Concerto
No. 2 of 1960.
The Elegy is the earliest piece here. It dates
from after the Symphony for Strings (1950) and before
the Veris gratia, for oboe, cello and strings. Struck
from the same quarry as Bax’s rhapsodic cello music it also
references a Rozsa-like skirling sway. It is an eminently melodic
piece with folk accents redolent of the chamber music of Herbert
The magnificent three movement Sonata for cello solo –
here receiving its world-première recording - is from the same
year as the Missa brevis for chorus. It belongs in the
same company as the equivalent Kodaly Sonata so devastatingly
championed in the 1950s by Janos Starker. It smokes with emotion,
patters with ruthless determination and grips the listener’s
attention. It was premiered by Joan Dickson in Edinburgh in
December 1967. Wallfisch, who broadcast it during the 1970s,
gives a no holds barred account. Caution is thrown to the winds
yet all remains in place.
The last of his works for cello and piano is the Alleluia
Pascha Nostrum. It immediately precedes the Concerto
for organ, timpani and strings, the Dance Suite No. 2 and the
Dance Overture. It was written just after the Piano Concerto
No 3, Estivo. The Alleluia was broadcast in 1981
and 1982 by Wallfisch and Richard Markham and was a Wallfisch
commission. He has recorded it before (Chandos CHAN 9346). I
have not heard that Chandos CD but in its own right this set
of Meditations on plainsong melodies from the 12th
century Salisbury Chant communicates as serious, desolate, muscular,
stonily ringing and urgent.
It’s the half centenary (2011) of Percy Grainger’s death and
concerts and recordings abound. I mention it only because one
of Leighton’s final works, the Fantasy Octet on themes of
Grainger for eight string instruments op 87 (1982, Edinburgh
Festival) is on the 1995 Chandos CD (CHAN 9346) of chamber music.
The informed and informing notes are by Adam Binks, the Leighton
biographer and lead authority.
This is the third BMS volume to present rare and fine works
for cello and piano. The first included the Foulds, Bowen and
Walker cellos sonatas from Jo Cole and John Talbot (review).
More recently there was the collection of Wordsworth, Holbrooke
and Busch on BMS436CD (review).
The BMS catalogue also includes a CD (members only) of the composer
himself and Colin Kingsley in Leighton’s Sonata for four hands
and the Romantic Pieces (review).
Leighton is profiled elsewhere on this site and for more detailed
context do have a look at those pages
as well as the Kenneth
Leighton Trust pages.
Meantime this will be indispensable to fans of Leighton, of
British chamber music and of the great artistry of the two Raphaels
who have made this disc such a gripping and variegated musical