Sunday, March 1, 2015

Arnold Cooke - Concerto in D for String Orchestra - Symphony No. 1 - Jabez and the Devil, Suite from the Ballet - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Nicholas Braithwaite - Lyrita 1975 & 2007 (DDD/ADD)

I have been itching to listen to more of Arnold Cooke's music lately, and happily I located this fantastic and important disc, again on Lyrita, on one of my hdds. This recording proves (as do all others) how very much Arnold Cooke recording projects are not only to be hoped for, but entirely necessary as he is a composer of too much stature to be ignored. The Naxos disc of Cooke's String Sonatas (posted here, some months ago) is a very promising sign, as is
the brilliant survey of Cooke's chamber music on Dutton Epoch (I have it somewhere..). I must confess I have not played this disc in a long time, and I confess to laziness and thus a brief Gramophone review below. I do recall that this disc is a complete knock-out, full of robust contrapuntal writing and energetic, sometimes relentless orchestral wallops of the highest order-in the Concerto for Strings but also in the Symphony. The Symphony No. 1 I do also recall impressed me, not only as it was Cooke's first stab at it (he was already in his 40s, however..) but also it's ability to stand neck and neck among other 20th century symphonies by established composers, English or otherwise. And most of these symphonies were not initial efforts like the Cooke. The ballet music from "Jabez and the Devil" too is a lot of fun, however admittedly it is what I remember the least; I am excited to listen to everything once again today! 

Arnold Cooke in bronze


The first of Arnold Cooke’s five symphonies was completed in 1947 and premiered under Sir Adrian Boult in a BBC broadcast two years later. At first glance both the home tonality and formal plan might imply a nod or two towards Walton’s First Symphony from the previous decade. However, it doesn’t take very long to discover that the most fruitful influence is that of Hindemith (Cooke’s teacher at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik from 1929 to 1932); anyone who responds to the German master’s Mathis der Maler, Symphony in E flat or Symphonia serena should most certainly lend an ear. Closer to home, annotator Calum MacDonald also perceives a timeless, deep-rooted quality in Cooke’s fad-free music that suggests a kinship with Rubbra (witness the long-breathed polyphony of the heartfelt slow movement). In sum, a work of impeccable resourcefulness, cogent argument and affecting sincerity that invites and repays repeated listening.

The symphony is flanked by the 1948 Concerto in D for string orchestra (a bracingly assured, big-hearted essay in three movements, which features some grateful writing for the section principals) and a splendidly colourful and diverting 18-minute suite from the 1959 ballet Jabez and the Devil (eventually staged at Covent Garden in September 1961). Kenneth Wilkinson’s 1974 Kingsway Hall sound in the latter boasts fabulous bite and presence still, but the two other works (taped in 1988-89) have likewise been ripely captured by the microphones, and Nicholas Braithwaite helms the LPO with scrupulous care and infectious commitment throughout. Definitely one for the “want” list!

*I'm including a pdf of the covers and booklet (it's not mine), and the scans of the booklet
are small thus zooming will be helpful.

Also whenever I locate my physical copy I shall upgrade the post to m4a, I guarantee there is a difference :)



squirrel said...

WOW...amazing stuff, thanks

cjvinthechair said...

OK - only had Cooke's 4th, so these will be a real bonus, thanks !

Tzadik said...

Hey Cjv you are welcome! Enjoy TZ