ALBUM TITLE: Swayne
WORKS: Solo Cello Suite No. 1; Cello Sonata; Four Lyrical Pieces; Canto
PERFORMER: Robert Irvine (cello), Fali Pavri (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Delphian DCD 34073
Giles Swayne is best known for his monumental choral pieces, and his love affair with African musical culture. This delightful set of cello pieces shows a gentler, smaller-scale but no less impassioned side to this fiercely individual composer. The timeless Four Lyric Pieces (1971) reveal a striking natural talent that has absorbed the cello pieces of Britten and Debussy, while the irresistible Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 from 2007 shows fresh powers of invention. The latter is an infectiously witty tribute to JS Bach: after the Prologue, Swayne alternates ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ dances, including a, by turns, graceful and sleazy ‘Serenata’, a cheerful pizzicato stomp, and a heavy-footed Gigue in which the dancer pulls his lady to the floor with swooshing glissandos.The ambitious Sonata (2006) has a pleasing architecture formed from an integrated harmonic system of eight-note modes, and it’s remarkably free-spirited, with a Brahmsian slow movement, two airy scherzos and a wonderful set of variations. The Sonata belongs in the European tradition, but my favourite piece is the mesmerising West African Kora‑inspired Canto (1982) which recreates a Mandean song.Irvine and Pavri are persuasive exponents of this repertoire, though I missed some subtlety in Irvine’s sound. Surely these pieces will be eagerly taken up by other cellists.