The Chamber Music of Arnold Cooke (1906-2005)

'These being world premiere recordings, there are no competing versions to cite for comparisons, but the performances by these Pleyel Ensemble players are so caringly, convincingly, and consummately well done, it’s hard to imagine them being surpassed, let alone equalled. Strongly recommended.'
Five stars: Striking music of strong character—new to disc—by a major British composer
Fanfare Magazine Oct. 2019

The Pleyel Ensemble are delighted to announce the completion of a major project in partnership with MPR Records to record a 4 CD selection of the chamber works of the English composer Arnold Cooke. The majority are world première recordings including Cooke’s 1st Sonata for violin and piano (1939), Sonata for two pianos (1936-37), Piano Trio (1944), Piano Quartet (1949), Piano Quintet (1969) and the two Sonatas for oboe and piano (1957 and 1962).

It is unacceptable that a composer as eminent as Cooke 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.

This project has formed part of Harvey Davies’s recently awarded PhD from Manchester Metropolitan University/RNCM. The thesis is available for download here.