very much a new figure, and force, in recording and performance
Recorded at the Old Granary Studios, Suffolk in the late August of last year, pianist Simon Callaghan – very much a new figure, and force, in recording and performance – has sought out, not easy repertoire or a name we know, but the complicated and almost unknown figure of Roger Sacheverell Coke. (Regular readers may recall our review of Coke’s music on the English Music Festival label, EM Records.) Coke was born in 1912, his family claiming lineage to the Plantagenet dynasty. His social position, whilst not exactly aristocratic (although semi-upper-class) was unencumbered by the usual demands of making money or earning one’s keep, and so Coke devoted himself to music – even producing a Shelley-based opera, which was decried by the musical press. The poor reaction to his work, his heavy-smoking, depression and accompanying disorders all combined to undermine this artist, and bury him in the far-flung reaches of musical history. Although achieving a measure of recognition at some points in his career, this essentially gloomy romantic found himself buried by the post-war musical establishment, keen as it was to embrace the continental, the avant-garde, the decidedly atonal. Not for them the two sets of 24 Preludes (Opp. 33 & 34) and 15 Variations (Op. 37) which Simon Callaghan has recorded for Somm: a testament to Coke’s very real and vivid creative strengths – an intense, often nocturnal inward-looking impressionism – which might lead the listener to think that an English Rachmaninov has been rediscovered.
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.