British Works For Cello/ Piano Vol.1 (Paul Watkins/ Huw Watkins) (Chandos: CHAN 10741)
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In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries many British composers produced superb works for cello and piano, but few of these actually made their way into the general repertoire. Here we have four very different works by four very distinct musical personalities, performed by the cellist Paul Watkins, an exclusive Chandos artist, accompanied by his brother, Huw Watkins. The sonata by Frederick Delius is the most widely known of the four pieces. Composed in a single, concise movement, it opens with a tune that sounds at one moment bold, and at the next wistful. The music progresses in the almost endless melodic flow so characteristic of Delius, before dissolving into a dream-like state, and finally, rising to a triumphant, full-hearted climax. By the beginning of the 1900s, Sir Hubert Parry, as Director of the Royal College of Music, and patron of many musical institutions, was probably the most influential figure in British music. His Cello Sonata is a work of high romanticism, tempered by firm structural control and the organic development of themes as befits a composer who had aspired (although unsuccessfully) to study with Brahms. The melodic language could in fact be described as Brahmsian, although Parry does not stringently imitate Brahmss style, and in terms of structure, Parrys strongly lyrical sonata owes little to the work which might have seemed a natural model Brahmss Sonata in E minor. Sir Granville Bantock took much of his inspiration from distant and exotic shores. The term Hamabdil refers to a hymn traditionally sung after the blessings said at the conclusion of the Jewish Sabbath. Bantocks evocative elaboration of this traditional tune is austere and dignified, and originated in an entracte which was part of the incidental music that he had written for Arnold Bennetts play Judith, premiered in London in 1919. Out of the four composers on this disc, only John Foulds was a professional cellist. His sonata is a big and bold work, romantically expressive and emotionally charged, with a complex structure in place, and virtuoso writing for both instruments. In fact, in this true duo-sonata, it is the pianist, not the cellist, who often has the harder task to perform. Product Description.
Paul Watkins follows his outstanding Chandos recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto by partnering his brother Huw in British cello-and-piano works that mostly date from the same era as Elgar's concerto. The exception is Parry's rather Brahmsian sonata, which reached its final form as early as 1883. Delius's slighter, rhapsodic single-movement work was composed in 1915, while the other substantial work here is John Foulds's Op 6 sonata. Why it gets almost as much space in the sleeve notes as the other three works put together is hard to explain, for despite the energy and virtuosity it demands, it seems an unremarkable piece. All the performances, though, are anything but unremarkable Paul Watkins shows himself once again to be peerless in this repertory, while Huw demonstrates that his sparkling playing can be as effective in music of this period as it is so regularly in contemporary repertoire. They lavish great care and good sense on everything here, including Granville Bantock's Hamabdil, a beautiful transcription of a Hebrew hymn that began life as part of Bantock's incidental music for a play by Arnold Bennett.*** --Guardian, 04/10/12
Quite frankly, this is a marvellous release:for the intriguing music, the superb performances and the first class sound. IRR OUTSTANDING --IRR, Oct'12
The Watkins brothers, Paul and Huw, buckle down to their task with notable sympathy and panache. Performance **** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Dec'12
The Watkins brothers explore century-straddling cello works. --Gramophone, Feb'13
Top Customer Reviews
Parry's Sonata is a full-scale three-movement work in the late Romantic mode, gratefully written for the cello and with melodic lines that fall very easily on the ear. Like the symphonies and other chamber music of Parry that I've heard, it's an obviously well-crafted piece, and while the program booklet notes Parry's admiration of Brahms, this work is a bit less dense or knotty than Brahms's sonatas.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Parry's Sonata is a full-scale three-movement work in the late Romantic mode, gratefully written for the cello and with melodic lines that fall very easily on the ear. Like the symphonies and other chamber music of Parry that I've heard, it's an obviously well-crafted piece, and while the program booklet notes Parry's admiration of Brahms, this work is a bit less dense or knotty than Brahms's sonatas. The developments never stray too far from the attractive melodic thematic material, and to my ears it comes across with a Mendelssohn-like charm rather than with Brahmsian rigor. The slow movement exploits the cello's lyrical possibilities beautifully, and there's plenty of life in the finale, after its opening maestoso.
The Foulds sonata, also in three movements, is perhaps the most arresting piece in this program. Foulds was a cellist himself, and he's interested in exploring more of the instrument's possibilities than the other composers on this disc. This piece is more challenging for both cellist and pianist, but when the going gets hairy, it's invigorating to hear the piano's downward glissandos and to hear too that the cello bears its part in establishing the rhythmic life of the piece in addition to meeting its lyrical responsibilities. It's also the most "modern" sounding piece on the disc, with the slow movement reminding me of an impressionist sound world like Debussy's. But there's also a lot of variety of thematic material within each movement, so the ear is always surprised and delighted. The Watkins brothers are excellent players and are very well recorded, with good balance. Paul Watkins's tone sounds leaner than Weilerstein's, but that might be be because the cello isn't artificially highlighted in the aural picture. All in all, this is a pleasure to listen to.