Thursday, December 04, 2014

World Premier Sonatas by Arnold Cooke

Arnold Cooke: Violin Sonata No. 2; Viola Sonata; Cello Sonata No. 2
Susanne Stanzeleit, violin; Morgan Goff, viola; Raphael Wallfisch, cello; Raphael Terroni, piano

Arnold Cooke came to prominence in the 1930's, along with Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten. This disc presents three string sonatas written at various points in his career.

The earliest work on the album is his Viola Sonata from 1937. Although the work features warm, elegiac passages, it's a far cry from the viola music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, written around the same time. Cooke's harmonies are sparer, and each movement is tightly constructed to present his ideas as efficiently as possible.

The Violin Sonata No. 2 of 1951 shows little of the post-war modernist tendencies of the era. Cooke's work is tonally centered, even though both the violin and piano wander far from the source. The writing is even less "English" in sound than the viola sonata, though still quite melodious in its own way.

Cooke wrote his Cello Sonata No. 2 in 1980, towards the end of his life. To my ears, there's a nostalgic quality to the music. The harmonies are more settled, and the cello positively sings in some of the passages. Cooke wasn't afraid to write beautiful music, fashionable or not. And that's the best description I have for this work -- beautiful.

Three world premier recordings that are well worth the time spent listening to them. What else could one want from a release?

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