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Reviews – solo
- wonderfully persuasive... of remarkable passion and convictionHesketh’s ‘imagined shamanic ritual’ IMMH asks a lot of its solo cello perfomer, demanding not only intense focus in its slowly unfolding melodic line, but also percussion on the cello body and chant-like singing. Joseph Spooner gives a wonderfully persuasive account, however, full of remarkable passion and conviction.
(The Strad, December 2016)
- grippingly expoundedSunday TimesThe Cello Sonata, op. 50, while revisiting the baroque manner’s polyphony and relentless textural continuity, distinctly intimated the systems music of a future year. It was grippingly expounded by Joseph Spooner and Continuum’s other director, the pianist Douglas Finch ...
(The Sunday Times, at King’s Place, June 2014)
- skilfully navigatedToch’s vitality and crackerjack juggling of multiple styles lit up Saturday’s instrumental programme, especially during the 1929 Cello Sonata, skilfully navigated by Joseph Spooner and the pianist Douglas Finch.
(The Times, at King’s Place, June 2014)
- arresting in his commitment‘a generous 80-minute production, one of quality as well as quantity. I need only detain you with praise for the presentation, the music and the performances. The booklet includes an exhaustive article on Sherwood by Joseph Spooner, which runs to nearly 18 pages. The music itself is lovingly lyrical, very affecting and full of character, and if Brahms and Schumann are easily called to mind, then Sherwood has his own personality and skill ... The performances are superb. Spooner is arresting in his commitment, his technical facility and in the rich tone he produces from his cello ... grandly traditional music that could not be better performed or presented’
(International Record Review, March 2013)
- no lack of passion‘Sherwood’s more effusive Romanticism [displays] considerable invention and a wider array of expression, avidly exploited by Joseph Spooner (who has also written the thoroughly researched booklet notes) … Spooner reveals the pieces without exception to have been wrongly overlooked … no lack of passion (or, indeed, sheer speed)’
(The Strad, February 2013)
- dark red velvetFanfare‘Spooner is an excellent cellist and his opulent tones can tug at the listener’s heartstrings. He uses a huge gradation of dynamics and can produce a sound that speaks directly to the emotions ... Much of it sounds like dark red velvet ... tremendous musicianship and technical prowess’
(Fanfare, February 2013)
- distinctive cello sound and personalityBMS News‘[Music] so full of fire and character and with an individuality all of its own ... Music needs such a cellist of character to bring it to life and here we are particularly fortunate that Joseph Spooner responds to this music with total dedication and passionate commitment, combined with a distinctive cello sound and personality that brings out all the inherent qualities ... A particular bonus is the fulsome booklet note from Joseph, which amounts to a mini-biography in itself ... an excellent bargain and a brilliant introduction to Percy Sherwood’s rediscovery’
(BMS News, January 2013)
- in assured and exultant formMusicWeb‘Those who enjoy the Rachmaninov and John Foulds cello sonatas will have no difficulty and much pleasure in encountering [the Sherwood sonatas] ... the tranced end of the second movement (Adagio) of the First Sonata with its moonlit glimmer is unforgettable ... There is nothing here for those of the critical community who belabour companies for inadequate or absent documentation ... The booklet ... amounts to an extended encyclopaedia entry for Sherwood ... It’s rich in footnotes and the style is fluent and uncongealed. The playing is all you might hope for with both Spooner and Owen Norris in assured and exultant form.’
- fabulous playingClassical Reviewer‘boldly impassioned playing … Sherwood couldn’t have had better advocates than Spooner and Norris … fabulous playing in the difficult writing … terrific playing … This new release deserves a firm recommendation to all interested in British music and, indeed, those who love fine music making.’
- exceptionally musicalClassical Lost and Found‘A long time champion of lesser known cello repertoire, Joseph Spooner deserves great credit for taking the time and effort to give us loving performances of the selections here … a sterling disc of discovery … The cello tone is glowing, and the piano well rounded, making for an exceptionally musical sounding disc.’
(Classical Lost and Found)
- Other cellists, please copy!
This is a fine and enterprising cello and piano recital that is worthy of wider notice from more than just the cello fraternity. The dedicated research and willingness to devote valuable time to mastering obscure repertoire, both of which underpin it, deserve a rich reward … Macfarren's … E minor Cello Sonata … is a captivating piece, rendered with vigour and conviction by Joseph Spooner and Kathryn Mosley … Suffice it to say that Spooner and Michael Jones … do [the Bainton Sonata] ample justice. Other cellists, please copy! … another Dutton triumph.
(International Record Review, June 2009)
- rich and varied toneThe recordings on this CD ... not only add fresh insight into the nature of the cello repertoire written by a generation of early ... one is also reminded just how influential the presence of Alfredo Piatti, the great Italian cellist, was on English cello playing in the nineteenth century. Both Macfarren's Sonata in E minor, first given in 1861, and Balfe's late Sonata in A flat (begun in 1856) were premiered in London by Piatti, who must have approved of their bright melodic style. Spooner and Mosley bring a vivacity to the more felicitous Mendelssohnian world of Macfarren's work and the 'singing' trait so promoted by Piatti is abundantly exercised in Balfe's more overtly vocal work. Spooner's tone is rich and varied. The Edwardian salon lyricism of the two miniatures by Rosalind Ellicott and Quilter is sensitively understated, but there is a good deal more 'in the tank' for Coleridge-Taylor's unjustly neglected and much more exotic Variations in B minor and Bainton's substantial Sonata ...
(Gramophone, September 2009)
- glowing toneClassical Lost and Found‘A long time champion of lesser known cello repertoire, Joseph Spooner deserves great credit for taking the time and effort to give us loving performances of the selections here. Along with pianist David Owen Norris' sympathetic accompaniment, he makes this a sterling disc of discovery. Made at the University of Southampton's Turner Sims Concert Hall in England, the recordings present a compact soundstage with the two instruments ideally balanced. The cello tone is glowing, and the piano well rounded, making for an exceptionally musical sounding disc.’
(Classical Lost and Found, November 2012)
- great expressive effectFanfareDutton's explorations of neglected repertoire represent some of the most laudable endeavors of recent times. The pieces are imaginatively chosen without fail, and this disc provides no exception … Spooner gives [the Macfarren Sonata] the greatest advocacy, playing with a beautiful tone throughout that he uses to great expressive effect … [Ellicott's Reverie] remains as a testament to her music's grace and charm. Spooner is an eloquent interpreter … [his] whispers the solo line [of the Quilter], lending heightened intimacy to his reading. In many ways this disc is revelatory in terms of repertoire. It is also a delight to listen to and is unhesitatingly recommended.
(Fanfare, September/October 2009)
- all the expressive power needed‘[Bush's] extraordinary Concert-Piece … all the expressive power needed’
(Gramophone, September 2002)
- beautifully playedAmerican Record Guide‘These sonatas are effective and lyrical, particularly Balfe's, which recalls the songful character of his light operas. The substantial Variations by Coleridge-Taylor is a strong work, unknown until after the composer's death. Roger Quilter's contribution is a transcription of a song, while Rosalind Ellicott's is a lovely miniature. Bainton's is perhaps the most impressive piece here, thought all the music is a pleasure to hear and is played with beauty by all.’
(American Record Guide, July/August 2009)
- superbly played The Delian‘superbly played and recorded … anyone interested in music of this period should add this CD to their bulging shelves’
(The Delian, April 2004)
- beguilingly played‘Better still is the almost-forgotten early Cello Sonata (1903–4), which muses beautifully and ends with a striding finale. It is a classic fin-de-siècle piece, beguilingly played by Joseph Spooner and well worth taking up by other cellists.’
(The Strad, June 2004)
- ravishingly played‘[Bush's] very English evocation of a Summer Valley, ravishingly played here’
(Gramophone, November 2002)
- consistently from the heartThe Independent‘consistently from the heart’
(The Independent, July 2003)
- a joy to listen to‘a joy to listen to’
(The Times, April 2000)
- deserves repeated hearingswww.myreviewer.com‘Judging by the performances here, we have many pieces which should be rightly considered as welcome additions to the mainstream cello/piano repertoire. Joseph Spooner plays with a clear passion for each work, and is accompanied with great sensitivity and skill by both Kathryn Mosley (Macfarren) and Michael Jones … This is a great retrospective of British music outside the 'usual' musical timelines, and deserves repeated hearings.’
(MyReviewer, June 2009)
Reviews – chamber
- first rate‘This is an extremely well planned disc. Whoever put these four works together certainly knew what they were doing … We have to thank the Summerhayes Piano Trio for unearthing these works and for presenting them with such evident belief in their worth – a belief which is not misplaced … As the recorded repertoire expands ever wider, one often hears music that has unjustly been neglected. Occasionally such neglect seems to be merited, but in each case on this disc, the music manifestly does not deserve to have been abandoned for so long … the performances and recordings here are first rate, so if your taste is for English music of this era, this issue should become an urgent acquisition.’
(International Record Review, July 2005)
- engaging and beautifully assured‘This is an immensely rewarding disc on all counts. The Meridian recording is first class, capturing all three instruments with marked warmth. The repertory is fresh and appealing, and the Summerhayes Piano Trio's performances are engaging and beautifully assured … superb musical finds’
(The Strad, October 2005)
- excellent performances‘excellent performances from the Continuum players’
(International Record Review, 2004)
- This is a very important release‘This is a very important release, in terms both of the intrinsic musical value of the recording and of its pointing to an entire repertoire that has yet to be adequately explored on CD … All the instrumentalists given committed performances – they plainly care … I recommend this fascinating CD very strongly indeed.’
(International Record Review, December 2003)
- lyrical strength and musical pleasure‘The three artists on Meridian's instrumental programme have obviously lived with this music and play very sympathetically indeed and with fine ensemble … the central 'Nocturne' of the Op. 31 'Concert Studies' for piano trio is haunting in its gentle atmospheric feeling, and the closing 'Alla Bulgara' great fun … excitement and real stimulation, lyrical strength and musical pleasure, in varying measures … I cannot recommend [it] too highly.’
(Gramophone, November 2002)
- You could easily imagine Bush foot-tapping in the great beyond‘The Copland … grabbed the attention right from the opening's eerie quarter-tones. Spooner and Summerhayes were in fine fettle, with forceful interplay between violin and cello, and strong projection of its various moods – lyric cries, black comedy, outright anger … The show-stopper, however, was the 'Three Concert Studies'. You could easily imagine Bush – Copland too – foot-tapping in the great beyond.’
(The Times, at the Purcell Room, April 2000)