Bridge, Britten, Goehr & H Watkins

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COMPOSERS: Bridge,Britten,Goehr & H Watkins
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: British Cello Sonatas
WORKS: Works by Bridge, Britten, Goehr & H Watkins
PERFORMER: Paul Watkins (cello), Huw Watkins (piano)
The talented Watkins brothers make their recording debut as a duo in a beautifully planned programme. Frank Bridge’s noble Sonata, completed in 1917, is followed by the suite-like Sonata of 1961 by Bridge’s pupil Benjamin Britten, drier in tone but no less expressive. And the single-movement Sonata of 1984 by Alexander Goehr, echoing the urgent, halting quality of the start of the Britten in a more modernist idiom, in turn precedes the Sonata written in 2000 by Huw Watkins, who studied with Goehr – a more broadly expressive piece than his teacher’s, but free of cliché, and as imaginatively written for the instruments as you would expect. From the wonderful opening of the Bridge, Paul Watkins deploys a tone of inward, unforced eloquence which serves the music well without ostentation, and technically he is in command of everything except a couple of tricky slurred pizzicatos in the Scherzo of the Britten. Huw Watkins is a responsive and equally well-equipped partner – though, unusually for this label, the piano sound is a little too close-up. Britten’s Decca recordings of his own work and the Bridge with Mstislav Rostropovich have unique authority. But the conception and execution of this disc make it, too, quite special. Anthony Burton