Notes and Editorial Reviews
. Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 for Cello and Piano.
Evva Mizerska (vc); Emma Abbate (pn)
TOCCATA 0143 (68:15)
Algernon Ashton, (1859-1937) was a British-born composer who was educated in Germany. When his father died in 1863, his mother moved the family to Leipzig where she was befriended by Clara Schumann. Even as a child, Algernon attended the famous Schumann soirees and rubbed shoulders with famous musicians. After
finishing his education, he returned to England. He became professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London and spent the rest of his life in England. Ashton was a prolific composer but many of his works were not published and very few have been recorded. His chamber music output includes four sonatas for violin and piano, four for cello and piano, two piano quartets, and two piano quintets. He also wrote symphonies, but they were never published. The opening work on this Toccata disc is his
, a beautiful piece in a contemplative mood. It has some of the colors of Brahms, but none of his rhythmic bite. The Sonata No. 1 in F Major opens with an
an impassioned plea begging the listener to take a mental voyage to Ashton’s lyrical world of drawing rooms with polished grand pianos and crimson velvet drapes where chamber music was as common as video games are today. He develops the second movement, the
, with consummate skill and clothes it with jewel tones. Only in the Finale, which he asks to be played
does he bring in a truly rhythmic melody. It could be a happy folk dance replete with clapping and stomping on the accented notes. It’s the kind of music that makes you get up and move! Abbate and Mizerska play all of this music joyfully and with great skill.
is an invitation to reverie. Ashton is a master of melody and he begins with a broad sunny tune that might bring back memories of a hike in German or English woodlands. In the second movement, marked
Andantino con Gran Espressione
, he leads us away from the cares of the everyday world into the nirvana of pure musical concentration where we can spend a few blissful minutes. After we reach our goal, we return to the village for the last movement marked
. There we can relax and tap our toes to another of Ashton’s fast and furious folk tunes. The Second Sonata is a bit more dramatic than the First. Its markings,
Adagio ma non troppo
are somewhat deceiving, because this work is constantly increasing in tension as it builds toward its marvelously animated finale. The two fine artists who currently reside and teach in London, the Polish-born Evva Mizerska and the Naples-born Emma Abbate, play all of this music with great finesse. Ashton’s music is a revelation. It deserves a much wider audience than it has had so far. The sound on the disc is clear with each instrument given equal presence. I enjoyed getting to know Ashton’s story and his music and think this disc should have a place in many record libraries.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Arioso, for cello & piano, Op. 43 by Algernon Ashton
Evva Mizerska (Cello),
Emma Abbate (Piano)
Venue: Challow Park, Wantage, Oxfordshire, Engl
Length: 7 Minutes 22 Secs.
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