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From Bohemia to Wessex - Cello Music from the Twentieth Century
John Barton ARMSTRONG (1923-2010)
Sonata for cello and piano (1981) [30:59]
Bohuslav MARTINU (1890-1959)
Sonata No 2 for cello and piano (1941) [13:23]
Peter THOMPSON (b.1955)
Sonatina for cello and piano (1981) [10:06]
Lionel Handy (cello); Nigel Clayton (piano)
rec. no details supplied

This is an interesting CD, with Martinu’s Second Sonata coupled with a pair of worthwhile pieces by composers who are not well represented on disc.

John Barton Armstrong’s Sonata was composed for Pamela George and dates from 1981. As a single 31 minute movement on a single track it requires sustained listening. It is a closely argued work built up in substantial sections, music from the first three returning in reverse order at the end, so that the lyrical opening music is also the Sonata’s conclusion. These are not however straight repeats – this is music which is constantly searching and journeying, with a sense of direction and purpose, and the musical language reflects this. The Sonata has been described as tonal, and there are passages where greater levels of consonance are to be found, but it is not tonal in any conventional sense. It also, to my ears, doesn’t sound like the music of any other composer. This is an accomplished work, and receives an excellent performance from Lionel Handy and Nigel Clayton.

Martinu’s Second Sonata needs no introduction. Compared to the recording by Sebastian and Christian Benda on Naxos, the tempi are more moderate – slightly slower in the outer movements and quicker in the central Largo. As for the interpretation, it’s not as idiomatically Czech in feel, the piano writing is strongly articulated and clear rather than impressionistic, but it is a well thought out performance.

Like the Barton Armstrong, Peter Thompson’s Sonatina was composed in 1981. It consists of three short movements and is given a sensitive and sympathetic performance. The music is fluent, lyrical and full of poetry, stylistically referencing the great tradition of English music from the early twentieth century as well as Martinu in the third movement. A gem.

Also we should not lose sight of Handy and Clayton's valuable Bax collection on Sleeveless SLV1007 and their two Cadenza CDs each of which has been reviewed here: CACD0906 ~~ CACD0810. Meantime here is a far from hackneyed collection of cello sonatas, well performed and presented and leaning towards the provocative.
Krzysztof Stasiak