Coke Cello Sonatas
With Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Simon Callaghan, the music of the Derbyshire-born Roger Sacheverell Coke has started to emerge from the obscurity in which it has languished since the composer’s death in 1972.
Despite showing considerable early promise, Coke remained an outsider in British musical life. Following studies at Eton (until 1931), he took private lessons with Mabel Lander (piano) and Alan Bush (composition) rather than attending university or music college. Coke credited Bush for helping him to find his musical voice, and cited Arnold Bax as a major influence, but his musical sympathies also extended to Bruckner, Mahler and Rachmaninov at a time when all three were deeply unfashionable among musical cognoscenti. His piano concertos nonetheless attracted widespread attention, with performances in Bath and Bournemouth, and BBC radio broadcasts of the second concerto in 1934 and the third concerto in 1939.
The three cello sonatas featuring on this disc frame the years 1936 to 1941, a very productive period in Coke’s life in which he also composed his second symphony (dedicated to Rachmaninov), the third and fourth piano concertos, a set of 24 preludes for piano, the opera The Cenci, the second and third piano sonatas, the first violin sonata, the Poem for cello, piano and small orchestra, as well as several sets of songs and other smaller pieces. This output is all the more remarkable given that Coke was already showing signs of the mental illness that would have a major impact on his creativity in later years, regularly leading to his hospitalisation for several months at a time.