LIONEL SAINSBURY: Cello Concerto – JOHN FOULDS: Cello Concerto – Raphael Wallfisch, cello – Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Martin Yates – Dutton Epoch CDLX 7284, 69:53, [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
This disc of two relatively unknown cello concertos offers us a chance to compare similar styles that were composed almost a century apart. Both are unabashedly tonal and neo-romantic in style, but Foulds wrote his in 1909 and Sainsbury’s concerto was penned in 1999. Lionel Sainsbury (b. 1958) played piano and composed at an early age. At 21, he was awarded the prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship, allowing him to travel and study with Edmund Rubbra, John McCabe and Henri Dutilleux. It was William Walton that provided a style that he admired: “He has this feeling of tension and resolution …and that passionate intensity which is incredibly exhilarating,” commented Stainsbury. There is a brief whiff of the orient in the theme of the first movement, which the cello plays on the high tenor register. Rhythmic and motivic development alternates with the cello’s cry for fulfillment and the brass answers fervently. Resolution arrives in the quietly intense adagio, whose beauty and sadness rivals that of Mahler. The folk-like, dramatic, and brilliantly orchestrated allegro changes the mood, but the adagio stays in the memory. Raphael Wallfisch is a passionate soloist and Martin Yates and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra accompany superbly. Anyone who loves the music of Samuel Barber or William Walton will love this wonderful concerto, a real discovery for this music lover.
The eclectic English composer John Foulds (1880-1939) became a cellist in the Halle Orchestra, after apprenticing in theater and promenade orchestras. He became a popular composer of British light music and theater scores, and later in life, lived in Paris and India, and wrote a large variety of music—much of it inspired by Indian folk music and the more radical music of the twentieth century.  The great conductor Hans Richter, in his final subscription concert with the Halle Orchestra, let Foulds conduct his early Cello Concerto (1909) with the German cellist Carl Fuchs as the soloist. It was forgotten until Raphael Wallfisch revived it in the 1980s.  It lacks the sophisticated melodic and orchestral invention of its discmate, but, it is an early work of a composer who blossomed later in his musical life. For a more interesting work, try Foulds’ Dynamic Triptych for Piano and Orchestra. The performances and sound of this disc is of the highest order. Don’t miss the Sainsbury Cello Concerto, which will appear on my ‘Best of 2012 List.’
—Robert Moon