The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: James Barralet (cello)
Composer: Kodály, Roxburgh, Britten

In 2007 British cellist James Barralet won the Landor Records Competition; this debut disc is the result. Kodály’s Sonata opens it in arresting fashion. Barralet, who studied with Demenga at the Musikhochschule Basel, plays with energy and poise, judging the pace expertly. The expansive spread chords seem to use every available inch of bow and the many incredible effects that Kodály draws from his instrument are accomplished with enviable technique. Barralet, fresh and charismatic communicator, keen Hungarian folk dancer and one half of an acclaimed cello and tabla duo, might just be the ideal performer for this music.

Edwin Roxburgh’s brief 1970 Partita makes its own recorded debut here. Unfortunately its composition date, a year before Britten’s Third Suite, makes comparison inevitable. The four concise movements make effective use of a wide range of techniques that Barralet executes faultlessly, but there is none of the profundity and soulful eloquence of the Britten, whose mood changes in the Allegro (marcia) and ‘Dialogo’ are as rapid as flashes of film. Barralet appends Britten’s original version of its first movement, longer, with more double-stopping but undoubtedly less effective.

This is a well-recorded but closely miked performance; Barralet’s breathing, detectable throughout, is only occasionally intrusive.