The Chamber Music of Arnold Cooke


Arnold Cooke (1906 – 2005)

(bronze bust by Gloria Loring commissioned by the Mayhurst Music Society)

The Pleyel Ensemble are delighted to announce a major project in partnership with MPR Records to record a selection of the chamber works of the English composer Arnold Cooke. The majority are world première recordings including Cooke’s first Sonata for violin and piano (1939), the Sonata for solo violin (1969), Duo for violin and viola (1935), Sonata for two pianos (1936-37), Piano Trio (1944), Quartet for piano and strings (1949) and the Quintet for piano and strings (1969).

The first of the series was released in November 2018 and features the complete Sonatas for violin. Here’s a recent review from MusicWeb International which highlights both the quality of the music and performances. A review in the British Music Society’s newsletter is quoted below;

The two central works, especially the Sonata for Solo Violin (1969) will appeal more to the technically minded, those who enjoy virtuosity for its own sake.  Benedict Holland gives a dazzling performance of the four movement work which is filled with double stopping, sounding like more than just one instrument.  The slow movement, Lento, offers a single line melody beautifully played before harmonics and different sorts of pizzicato return us to harmonic passages.

In the Duo Sonata (1935-35), Benedict Holland is joined by Susie Mészáros on viola.  Marvellously clear contrapuntal playing leads on to a truly exciting Molto allegro finale.

The final Sonata, no.2 in A for violin and piano, demonstrates fabulous teamwork between Benedict Holland and pianist Harvey Davies.  In this work, the pianist is given every bit as much limelight as the violinist.  Somehow here, the ghost of Hindemith is again married delightfully with the English side of  Cooke’s writing.  The slow movement, Andante con moto, is melodically delicious but it is the finale with its appended fugue that demonstrates Cooke’s music at its most joyful and bewitching.   

It is inconceivable that a composer as eminent and prominent during the twentieth century should be so quickly overlooked so this project aims to bring Cooke’s music to wider public attention. Having studied with Edward Dent at Cambridge University and Paul Hindemith in Berlin, Cooke worked as Professor of Composition and Harmony at the Royal Manchester College of Music during the 1930s and from 1947 until 1978 at Trinity College of Music in London. His 180 compositions span seven decades of creative activity during which time he produced music in all the main genres including six symphonies, concerti, a ballet, two operas, songs, choral music and a vast body of finely-wrought chamber music. His accessible music was frequently commissioned by prominent performers such as Dennis Brain, the Griller Quartet, Sophie Wyss, Lèon Goossens, Yfrah Neaman, Carl Dolmetsch and many times by the BBC.

With so much of Cooke’s music now neglected, we feel that this project is both timely and necessary. Cooke stands alongside other members of his extraordinary generation of British composers: William Walton, Lennox Berkeley, Elizabeth Lutyens and Michael Tippett to name but a few. Each had his or her unique voice which together have created a rich legacy of music documenting their experiences of a turbulent century.

Please contact Harvey Davies HERE for more details or if you would like to subscribe to our imminent CDs.