A welcome collection of music by a master writer for the cello
Raphael Wallfisch adds yet another high-quality disc of English music to his impressively extensive discography, with Kenneth Leighton’s complete chamber works for cello. As well as having recorded his Concerto for Chandos, Wallfisch has a personal connection with Leighton; he commissioned the final work, the plainsong-inspired Alleluia Pascha Nostrum, seven years before Leighton’s premature death in 1988.
There’s no mistaking the serious tenor of Leighton’s work, and nowhere more so than in the sombre first movement of his three-movement Partita (1959). Near the end, the glissando pizzicatos under a limpid piano melody are exquisitely accomplished by Wallfisch, and the duo’s scherzo, agitated rather than playful in its constant syncopations, finds no rest.
The Elegy, a real gem of a piece, is a slight disappointment here. Everything feels a touch understated, and even in the final passage marked ‘liberamente ed intensamente’ there’s still a feeling of something held back.
There’s no such problem in the Solo Sonata, though, which manages to sound nothing like Britten although written in the late 60s – the recorded cello sound is immediate and excellent, with a rich and clearly focused tone and brightly ringing double-stops in the ‘Lament and Pizzicato’ movement, and a haunting high tessitura non-vibrato sound in the ‘Cradle Song’.