Callaghan's spirited and skilful playing is impressive
Roger Sacheverell Coke was much appreciated as a young composer and pianist in the 1930s but his wealthy aristocratic background (he shared a piano tutor with Princess Elizabeth the future Queen) and adherence to romantic music meant that he fell out of favour. He died, his mind clouded by mental illness, as a virtual recluse in 1972. Simon Callaghan’s assiduous research and persuasive advocacy has led to Coke’s 24 Preludes Op.33 and Op. 34 and the Op.37 15 Variations and Finale receiving their world premiere recordings. Callaghan’s spirited and skilful playing is impressive: these works are “always passionate and intensely lyrical” as he claims even if they’re not quite “lost treasures”. Rachmaninov casts a long shadow here, the fiery Op.34 Prelude 19 could pass as the genuine article, but Coke adds a touch of English pastoralism (Bax’s music was an influence) which makes for a piquant mix – well worth exploring.
Little is known about Derbyshire pianist and composer R.S. Coke though he was clearly valued during his lifetime and there is an entry about him in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Artists who admired his work include Eugene Goossens who conducted Coke's opera "The Cenci", Sir Henry Wood who conducted the composer's first symphony (broadcast on the BBC) and the Brosa Quartet who performed his chamber music. He was a friend of both Moiseiwitsch and Rachmaninov and dedicated his 2nd Symphony to Rachmaninov with his permission. Watch the trailer here.