Joseph Spooner

Music for Cello & Piano

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Cellist Joseph Spooner has devoted a significant amount of his career and discography to the discovery and performance of unknown works in the repertoire. There comes a point, however, when listeners must start asking if a composition is too obscure, too unknown, or too forgotten. The program chosen for this Dutton Digital album certainly begs these questions. The first two works on the program -- sonatas by Walter Macfarren and Michael Balfe -- are tediously monotonous and almost pure drudgery to sit through. Things improve later in the album, but only slightly. Perhaps the most engaging composition is a set of variations by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; the variations come quickly enough to keep the listener mostly interested and engaged. Spooner and his accompanists -- Kathryn Mosely for the Macfarren and Michael Jones for the remainder -- do a reasonably good job in the execution of their chosen program. Balance is generally good between piano and cello, and Spooner plays with a big, romantic sound. It is fairly obvious from the intensity and drama that Spooner infuses into each piece, however, that he takes these compositions much more seriously than most of his listeners will. While die-hard cello fanatics won't mind hearing some new literature, the casual listener will most likely want to pass on this collection.

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