Friday, 8 January 2010

Arnold Cooke: String Sonatas on the British Music society Label

A study of the CD catalogues shows that there is precious little of Arnold Cooke’s music currently accessible. Through the good offices of Lyrita, it is possible to hear the First and the Third Symphonies, the Concerto for String Orchestra and the Jabez and the Devil Suite. Hyperion has ensured that the clarinet works are well represented, with the Concerto No. 1, the Quintet and the Sonata still available. Over and above these, there are a few songs and that is about it. So it is good that the British Music Society have re-released this fine CD of three important chamber works. The CD was originally published as a part of the Cooke Centenary celebrations.

Rob Barnett in his review at the time of the original release has suggested that “Arnold Cooke is of the unfashionable Cheltenham generation of composers active … during the period 1945-75”. He further notes that “their time may not yet have come…” Eric Wetherell in the only study of the composer available has suggested that the standard view of Cooke is that “as a disciple of Hindemith, he must be rather less worthy of attention than his teacher.” That would be like saying Beethoven was less valuable that Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. However Wetherell concludes his point by insisting that “a careful and sustained examination of Cooke’s work reveals that the similarities are superficial and that his (Cooke’s) individual characteristics far outweigh his indebtedness to his master.” Certainly studying critical comment reveals a certain imbalance of views on the influence of Hindemith that will only be fully resolved when the vast majority of Cooke’s music is available to the listener. 

The three works presented on this CD are selected from some ten Sonatas that Cooke wrote over a period 45 years. This is essential listening for all enthusiasts of British music but more importantly these are three sonatas that stand up well in their own right as a vital contribution to the corpus of European chamber music. It is a tired argument to suggest that because Cooke is deemed to belong to the Cheltenham generation of composers, these works should be ignored.

Please read the full review at MusicWeb International

Track Listings:

Violin Sonata No. 2 (1951) 
Viola Sonata (1937) 
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1980) S
usanne Stanzeleit (violin); Morgan Goff (viola); Raphael Wallfisch (cello); Raphael Terroni (piano)
BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY BMS432CD 

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