Notes and Editorial Reviews
Raphael Wallfisch (vc); Martin Yates, cond;
Royal Scottish Natl O;
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7284 (69:53)
John Foulds (1880–1939) was one of those exotic and eccentric English jack-of-all-trades composers who
did not become really interesting and distinctive until he went to India and encountered a whole new universe of music. After his relatively early death in a faraway land he had been marginalized and almost entirely forgotten until an unexpected flood of first recordings came out over the past decade or so.
The cello was Foulds’s own instrument and, although he apparently composed two other concertante works for the cello (one discarded and lost, the other an arrangement of Corelli), this full-scale 1908–09 work is nonetheless still a typical product of his early phase when he had not yet crystallized a personal idiom. Written in a quasi-Elgarian manner, the 35-minute piece is full of lovely ideas thrown together in a helter-skelter way. Only the ravishing Adagio—conceived in a songlike form and his second attempt at a slow movement—really works, while the somewhat overblown outer movements seem like semi-indigestible fantasia-like farragos. The orchestral writing is rich and strong, however, and the solo part (after a curious initial plucking or strumming entry) is consistently lyrical but still of a strictly nondescriptive character.
Dutton seems to have a very favorable view of the younger Englishman Lionel Sainsbury (b. 1958), whose Violin Concerto the label released a couple of years ago. As in that work, the Cello Concerto of 1999 evinces similar tendencies toward the overextended and the episodically overstuffed. This is not to deny Sainsbury’s ambitious self-assurance and gift for plangent melodiousness and dramatic pacing. The first two movements are the most successful, while the incredibly eventful, lengthy finale is now and then simply too much of a good thing.
But the phenomenal Raphael Wallfisch applies his unlimited virtuosity and technique without stint to both works which, in spite of having been written almost a century apart, have so much in common that portions of each score sound almost interchangeable in structure and spirit—a striking testimony to the continuity (or the historical provinciality?) of English music. And of course Martin Yates supplies his customary polished intensity and commitment. These two first recordings offer a plenitude of pleasure to all lovers of English repertoire in general and of the cello in particular.
FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
Works on This Recording
Cello Concerto, Op. 27 by Lionel Sainsbury
Raphael Wallfisch (Cello)
Date of Recording: 05/25/2011
Venue: RSNO Centre, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow
Length: 33 Minutes 30 Secs.
Cello Concerto No. 1 in G major, Op. 17 by John Foulds
Raphael Wallfisch (Cello)
Date of Recording: 06/30/2011
Venue: Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset
Length: 36 Minutes 18 Secs.
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