The Solo Cello

Antony Cooke

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The Solo Cello Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Since the Six Suites for Solo Cello of J.S. Bach, composers have often returned to the solo cello as an instrument capable of incredible technical feats, unparalleled range, and expressive breadth. This Centaur album, featuring cellist Antony Cooke, focuses on four such works from across the 20th century. Cooke opens with what is by far the most familiar and widely celebrated piece on the program: Kodály's Op. 8 Solo Sonata. Despite being one of the most technically demanding works in the cello's entire repertoire, Cooke handles the execution with a reasonable amount of accuracy. What listeners familiar with the piece will notice, however, is that Cooke gets carried away musically. So filled with rubato is Cooke's interpretation that the usually powerful, forward-moving piece nearly comes to a stand-still on several occasions. Chords are played with a tiresome delay at the bottom half that makes Cooke's playing predictable. The remainder of the works on the program -- by Khachaturian, Hovhaness, and Arnell -- are not as memorable or engaging as Kodály's composition, but they are still interesting contributions to the repertoire. Perhaps because Cooke is not competing with countless alternate recordings in these latter pieces, his playing seems less overwrought and overdone than in the Kodály. As in several of his previous releases on Centaur -- which Cooke himself has produced -- recorded sound quality is still a primary issue. Although not competing for balance with a piano on this disc, Cooke's sound is still less than ideal. At times it is quite nasally and is frequently sterile; louder portions of the music, particularly when multiple-stopped chords are in play, are often muddy and make individual notes difficult to pick out.

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