‘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 …’ (International Record Review)
The cello repertoire is, after the piano and violin, the richest repertoire we have. At conservatoire the cellist is of course required to engage with the mainstays of the repertoire, and it is always a challenge to find a way forwards that is not simply a slavish reproduction of earlier performances. I have explored much of the mainstream cello repertoire, but always also been intrigued by other paths.
This sort of ‘crusade’ often raises a few eyebrows, as many items trawled up from dusty library shelves for such an exercise should be put back as quickly as possible once it has been inflicted upon the local music society. Much of the music on this CD however, should be of great interest to those who are willing to open their ears and perhaps be very pleasantly surprised that Das Land ohne Musik … could produce such fascinating pieces … This is a great retrospective of British music outside the ‘usual’ musical timelines, and deserves repeated hearings. (myReviewer.com)
What is it about neglected music? There is often a thrill to be had simply in locating a possible ‘hidden gem’, which I’ve had in London, Berlin and Moscow, among other places. There is of course the further thrill – not dissimilar to that of premiering a contemporary work – of hearing something essentially new for the first time. Sometimes the results of the time spent pursuing leads and choking on library dust are disappointing: I have worked through pieces in private that I would not want to inflict on anyone and which seem to merit only the mentions of them already found in reference works.
The results however can also be truly remarkable and fascinating. Reviews of my recordings have included generous comments concerning the effort involved in unearthing such repertoire. More importantly the works I have committed to disc have consistently been received with great pleasure and surprise that they are not better known. As part of my aim to bring these pieces to public attention I have been preparing for publication works that I feel really should have wider circulation. My editions of pieces for cello and piano by Anton Arensky (1861–1906), César Cui (1835–1918) and Michael Balfe (1808–1870) are already available from Fountayne Editions and more projects are in the pipeline.
‘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 … an exceptionally musical sounding disc.’ (Classical Lost and Found)
So why do these works slip through the cracks? There are countless reasons. Performers themselves may have ushered works into obscurity with a lack of skill or understanding. Pieces are sometimes written in a style that has gone out of fashion – Nikolai Myaskovsky’s Sonata no. 2 is a good example. On occasion a composer will censor his own output: George Dyson’s Cello Sonata happily survived a cull of early works made later in the composer’s life. Other composers suffered different forms of censorship. Alexander Krein was exiled from an eminent position in Moscow during Stalin’s régime, and his Hebrew Melody was tellingly published simply as Mélodie. Alan Bush was ostracised by the British musical establishment for his communist sympathies, and it is extraordinary that his Concert-Piece, an undisputed masterpiece of modernism, was only published in 2004. A composer’s relocation or marginalization account for the low profile of other works. Appreciation of Edgar Bainton’s music, including his magnificent Cello Sonata, may have been affected by the composer’s emigration to Australia, and the Anglo-German composer Percy Sherwood was effectively shunned by the musical establishment in England after he was forced to relocate to London from his native Dresden at the outbreak of the First World War.
Hearing these works, especially when programmed alongside better-known pieces, can be a revelation. Visit my Recordings page and Youtube channel for a taste of what there is.
‘Whoever put these four works together certainly knew what they were doing …’ (International Record Review)