Ever since discovering a mimeographed copy of Greville Cooke’s Cormorant Crag in the pages of the British Music Society Journal (Volume 04, 1982), I have regarded it as one of my musical aims in life to hear that piece. It is an evocative title that appeals to my sense of the picturesque. A study of the score reveals sea-music of the first order in a style that is romantic, nods to Bax and is deliberately overblown. It is way beyond my technical prowess (Grade 6⅓) on the piano so there is no potential for me to play it through with the notes in right or even the wrong order.
Fortunately, the pianist Duncan Honeybourne has come to the rescue in a big way. On 27 April, he is giving a lecture recital, entitled ‘Reef’s End: The Piano Music of Greville Cooke’ in Leominster as a part of a series of Sunday afternoon events that the pianist organises there.
On 24 May, Honeybourne is due to give a recital at the English Music Festival where he will play a number of Cooke’s essays, including ‘Cormorant Crag’, ‘Reef’s End’, ‘High Marley Rest’ and ‘Whispering Willows’. Other works at this performance will include Frank Bridge’s ‘revolutionary’ Sonata, Ivor Gurney’s ‘Five Western Watercolours’, Ernest Farrar’s Miniature Suite and two works by the forgotten Irish composer Archy Rosenthal.
Duncan Honeybourne is also due to record much of Cooke’s piano music for EM Records –‘Greville Cooke: A Forgotten English Romantic’. This album will be released (hopefully) in time for the Festival. The recording is being made at the Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton. I understand that the disc will include the rarely heard ‘Six Teaching Pieces’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which was later ‘rebranded’ as A Little Piano Book. The ‘Nocturne’ by Gustav Holst is also on the batting list.
It is hugely encouraging when a composer is rediscovered. Looking at the piano scores of Greville Cooke’s music that are in my collection, I believe that listeners and concertgoers will not be disappointed. Certainly, based on the superb performance that this pianist has given in his recent retrospective of E.J. Moeran’s piano music, this promises to be an exciting project. Perhaps I can encourage Duncan Honeybourne to investigate the equally fascinating piano music of Harry Farjeon and Leo Livens?