My quest for repertoire for cello and piano that needs a wider audience continues. I have recently been working on a CD for EM Records of works from the 1920s. All decades are arguably equally ripe for exploration, but the 1920s were a period of musical ferment. The Great War had inevitably left its mark, and in the cello repertoire we see engagement with the modernism prevalent on the Continent, the continued evolution of a typically English Romanticism, excitement at the inspiration found in folk music (not just of Britain), as well as hints of the trend towards concision seen later in the works of Alan Rawsthorne and the like.
The disc has recently been released and I can now reveal what listeners will find on it! Perhaps the best-known work is the Sonata by John Ireland. Although this has been recorded a few times, I was thrilled to be the work: I learnt it from the late Derek Simpson, who in turn learnt it from Douglas Cameron, who premiered the work.
Everything else on the disc is a premiere recording. There’s the Sonata by Frederic Austin and the Sonatina by Benjamin Burrows; both of these are major works. The Austin is generously conceived with Delian-type harmonies; the piano part is particularly demanding – perhaps if the work had ever been published someone might have gently suggested to Austin that it could be better structed for the instrument – but my pianist for it more than rose to the challenge.
We will no doubt be hearing more from Burrows in the future: he was a most self-effacing chap, who worked in Leicester as a teacher and organist. He developed an extraordinary passion for one of his students, even though he was married. She was eventually sent to London to learn, but this was not before Burrows had written, within a very short space of time, about 90 songs for her. It was during this period of personal inspiration that Burrows composed the Sonatina – a very lyrical piece that is nevertheless marked by a terseness of expression not generally found until much later in (for example) Rawsthorne. The other works on the disc are Eric Fogg’s Poem of 1922 – designed to be performed by him and the woman he toured with and whom he later married. The are also premiere recordings of folk-songs transcriptions and folk-song inspired works by William Alwyn, Cyril Scott and Greville Cooke.
Details of this CD, with sound samples, are on my Recordings page.