Milo: Bridge, Turnage & Britten
LABELS: Orchid Classics
WORKS: Bridge: Spring Song; Mélodie; Turnage: Sleep On: Three Lullabies for cello and piano; Milo; Britten: Cello Sonata in C, Op. 65
PERFORMER: Guy Johnston (cello), Kathryn Stott (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ORC100010
This album is woven with intimate relationships: Milo, after whom it is named, is Mark-Anthony Turnage’s youngest son and godson of Guy Johnston; its plaintive, artless air was written for his christening.
Bridge was, of course, Britten’s ‘musical’ father and their two cello sonatas make a fascinating comparison. Johnston has also included Turnage’s Sleep On, three soulful lullabies for cello and piano.
Johnston and Kathryn Stott attack the Britten with fire and force, but the balance favours the piano, and there’s a certain carefulness to Johnston’s handling of the material in contrast to Stott’s more vigorous approach.
Johnston shows panache in Bridge’s Spring Song and Mélodie, sinuous early salon pieces which contrast so starkly with his Sonata, completed during World War I. As Anthony Payne has rightly pointed out, this work occupies a fascinating transition period in Bridge’s output, where Edwardian elegance co-exists with restlessly radical modernism.
Both Johnston and Stott capture its instability well, and Johnston finds exquisite moments in its more reflective eddies, but the balance, again, favours the piano, and his sound, while very beautiful, can come across as underpowered at climaxes, if well shaped.
He mentions in the booklet notes being drawn to the work by the performance by his own teacher Steven Doane (Bridge), and Doane’s reading remains a benchmark for me, being fuller, more robust and sponateous, lit with a special energy.
Caveats aside, this is an original, enterprising programme with plenty to delight, and the Turnage performances are highly recommended. Helen Wallace