British Works for Cello and Piano

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COMPOSERS: Alan Rawsthorne,Edmund Rubbra,EJ Moeran
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: British Works for Cello and Piano, Vol. 3
WORKS: Cello Sonatas by Edmund Rubbra, Alan Rawsthorne and EJ Moeran
PERFORMER: Paul Watkins (cello), Huw Watkins (piano)


A blood-red sunset dominates the striking cover photograph, an echo, perhaps, of the war-jangled years of the later 1940s when these British cello sonatas were composed. There is nothing routinely pastoral about any of them, though Moeran’s touches upon Irish folk music as it broods, laments and, just occasionally, dances. The most stylistically striking piece is Rubbra’s Sonata of 1946, released on CD five years ago in a distant but heartfelt 1962 BBC recording by Jacqueline du Pré. The Watkins brothers, true to form, pay close attention to its rhythmic life, though they also know how to soar into beauty with Rubbra’s long and decorative singing lines, clearly crafted with Baroque music in mind.

Rawsthorne’s Cello Sonata of 1948, the shortest and most pungent works of this trio, writhes with characteristic nervous vigour. Pianist Huw Watkins is in his element here, while Paul’s cello rejoices in the interleaved moments of sorrow and despair. The structure of the Moeran, premiered in 1948 by his wife, Peers Coetmore, totters at times, but its emotional life is richly textured. The Chandos recorded sound is warmly inviting, and the Watkins duo interact in a manner perhaps only possible with artists who shared a childhood together, cornflakes
and all.


Geoff Brown