Schumann, Poulenc, Prokoviev, Beethoven, Rachmaninov & Cui
JS Photo: Katie Vandyck
Fantasiestücke Op 73
Sonata for Cello and Piano FP 143
Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Op 119
Fortunately it would appear that the experiment of holding concerts on Sunday afternoons has proved successful, especially if the weather has not been fine enough to tempt would-be music enthusiasts to seek the great outdoors for their enjoyment. This was again apparent by the encouraging size of the audience for the cello and piano recital on Sunday 16th November when Joseph Spooner and Catherine Summerhayes -- two thirds of the Summerhayes Trio - gave a splendid performance of works by Beethoven, Schumann, Poulenc, Cui, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.
The seven variations by Beethoven based on part of Mozart`s Magic Flute opera got us off to an attractive and pleasing start. This was followed by two short pieces-- The highly emotional "Lied" by Rachmaninov and "Oriental" by Cesar Cui who was one of the well known Russian "Five" and who was also trained as a specialist in army fortifications and even ended up as a General! As its name implies this piece is full of interesting rhythms and charming Eastern melodies.
The four movement Poulenc sonata written in 1948 is a fascinating work, typically French and full of quirky rhythms and unexpected melodic twists. This was played with great aplomb and panache so necessary for bringing this music to life..
After the interval we heard the more familiar "Fantasiestucke" bymSchumann. A great piece, the cello part sometimes being played on a variety of instruments,which fairly romps along especially when performed in such a spirited way as this duo brings to bear in all their performances.
Before the last item, the well known Vocalise by Rachmaninov gave a breathing space in which to prepare for the Prokofiev "Sonata" op.119. This is a mighty work full of difficulties demanding virtuoso abilities from the players,abilities which they have in abundance.
This is long and powerful music very often requiring sudden contrasts between harsh dissonances and smooth melodic sections perhaps faithfully reflecting the paradoxes of twentieth century Russia.
Owing to their consummate musicianship and technical ability, these artists constantly produced a beautiful tone from their instruments,sensitive phrasing and outstanding control of dynamics, making this an outstanding concert with which to end 2014.
Joseph Spooner came to the cello indirectly, via a degree in Classics at Cambridge, and a doctorate in Greek papyrology at London and Florence universities. During subsequent postgraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music, he embraced traditional repertoire and developed a taste for contemporary and non-standard works. Since then, he has pursued a diverse career, principally as a soloist and chamber musician, and this work has taken him across the UK, from the Baltic to the Atlantic, and from the recording studio to France, Austria, the Netherlands, New York and Russia. As a soloist, there have been performances of familiar and less familiar concertos (including Dvorák, Leighton, Korngold, Shostakovitch and Moeran); broadcasts from his recordings on BBC Radio 3 and Radio New Zealand; and recital series featuring the complete works for the cello by Bach, Beethoven, Bloch, and the Mighty Handful.
Joseph has worked extensively as a chamber musician, currently with the Summerhayes Piano Trio, and was a founder member of the mixed ensemble Camarada. His work with contemporary-music ensembles (notably Continuum and New Music Players) has included performances at major festivals (among them Huddersfield), broadcasts (BBC Radio 3, Channel 4), several premieres, and recordings of works by Errollyn Wallen and Roger Smalley. Joseph’s deep delving into the cello repertoire has led to the rediscovery of unjustly neglected works. Audiences have greatly appreciated hearing this music, and critics have offered high praise for Joseph’s recordings, noting the initiative entailed and agreeing that these works – by composers as diverse as Alan Bush, Alexander Krein, Michael Balfe, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Edgar Bainton, Aaron Copland, George Dyson, and Percy Sherwood – were indeed worth rehabilitating.
Joseph was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2012, and in 2013 was made an honorary member of the International Felix Draeseke Society. He is proud to be the dedicatee of Alwynne Pritchard’s Danaides, Errollyn Wallen’s Spirit Symphony: Speed Dating for Two Orchestras, and Martin Read’s Troper Fragment. His instrument was made by Nicholas Vuillaume in c.1865