COMPOSERS: Bridge; Clarke; Delius; Ireland; Keys; Rubbra
ALBUM TITLE: British Cello Sonatas
WORKS: Sonatas by Bridge, Clarke, Delius, Ireland, Keys and Rubbra
PERFORMER: Alexander Baillie (cello), John Thwaites (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMM2512
These are passionate, focused, full-blooded readings without a hint of reticence or apology. Alexander Baillie and John Thwaites invest each work with the power of utter belief, and as a result these are probably the best current versions of the Bridge, Ireland, Rubbra and Delius Sonatas. Less familiar is the Rebecca Clarke (actually the seldom-heard cello version of her Viola Sonata), and the rarity is Ivor Keys’s Sonata (from 1957, though Somm’s inlay says 1960), a piece initially wiry and combative but later elegiac and lyrically discursive, even playful. Despite the differences in language, it reminds us of Keys’s eminence as an authority on Brahms.
Baillie and Thwaites make you feel that all the composers were liberated rather than constrained by the medium, and were writing at the height of their powers, from the tragic appeals of the Ireland, to the dionysiac revelry of the Clarke and the spacious architectural calm of Rubbra’s variation finale. One thing that emerges is the importance of contemporary French music to some of the composers, be it Fauré to Frank Bridge, Debussy to Ireland, or Ravel to Rebecca Clarke.
Of all these fine works it’s perhaps the Ireland Sonata that wears best – a piece (it seems in this performance) written in blood, and surely among its composer’s greatest works. Somm’s recording is wonderfully immediate and almost perfectly balanced.