SAINSBURY; FOULDS Cello Concertos

Dutton revives ‘missed’ English cello concertos

Author: 
Jeremy Nicholas

SAINSBURY; FOULDS Cello Concertos

  • Concerto for Cello
  • Concerto for Cello

It is a particular pleasure to welcome Lionel Sainsbury’s Cello Concerto, since many years ago by happenstance (it’s a long story) I was invited to afternoon tea by the composer in his Cotswold home when he was working on the score. I did not envisage from the composer’s illustrations at the piano a work of such expressive range and intensity (try the central Adagio). It is quite thrilling to hear, after all this time, the fruits of his labour realised in such commanding style. The longest and structurally most complex movement is the finale, with its jig-like main subject of ‘infectious, raffish good humour’ (Malcolm MacDonald in his excellent booklet), which rounds off a composition that, by whatever magical means these things occur, is unmistakably English.

Sainsbury’s Concerto is followed by a work completed exactly 90 years earlier, in 1909. John Foulds’s Cello Concerto (the only surviving one of three he wrote between 1906 and 1910) was performed once in 1911 and then not heard until Raphael Wallfisch revived it in the 1980s. Its three movements are linked by the same theme, and boast a number of unusual features such as the soloist’s pizzicato first utterance and the composer’s invitation to the soloist to improvise his or her own cadenza in the finale. At the work’s heart is a beautiful quasi-Elgarian slow movement. Strange how some pieces as vivid and beguiling as this can slip through the net. One really could not ask from Messrs Wallfisch and Yates and both orchestras for more persuasive world premieres of two concertos that already seem like old friends.

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