British Works for Cello and Piano

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COMPOSERS: Bennett,Hoddinott,Leighton,Lutyens
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: British Works for Cello and Piano
WORKS: Vol. 4: Cello sonatas by Leighton, Lutyens, Hoddinott and Bennett
PERFORMER: Paul Watkins (cello), Huw Watkins (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10862

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This latest volume of Paul and Huw Watkins’s survey of British cello works showcases the expressive range of the instrument which emerged through later 20th-century composition, with adventurous works that exploded the cello’s reputation as a primarily lyrical instrument by demonstrating its more mercurial qualities. The disc opens with Kenneth Leighton’s beautifully taut Partita (1959), which echoes Walton and Shostakovich in its rhythmic agility. Constants (1976) by Elisabeth Lutyens is a particular highlight. Lutyens was largely self-taught and a true pioneer among British music, not only through her standing as a professional female musician but in her being the first British composer to adopt Schoenberg’s serial technique. The ‘constants’ of this striking, crystalline work are four melodic and harmonic intervals which punctuate Lutyen’s freely-metered composition, here performed with splendid poise and colour.

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Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott was also influenced by the Second Viennese School, as well as by the fiery textures of Bartók, and these models are heard in the controlled, brooding counterpoint of the Sonata No. 2 (1977). Supported early on by Lutyens herself and also owing a certain debt to Berg’s expressive serialism, Richard Rodney Bennett completes the volume with his masterful Sonata (1991). The work traverses the delicate and ferocious spirit of the cello to conclude this eloquent disc, recorded with notable warmth and clarity by Chandos. Kate Wakeling