The Pre-Raphaelite Cello | Somm SOMMCD0685

The Pre-Raphaelite Cello


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Label: Somm

Cat No: SOMMCD0685

Barcode: 0748871068520

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Chamber

Release Date: 17th May 2024



SOMM Recordings is proud to announce a recital disc from cellist Adrian Bradbury and pianist Andrew West titled The Pre-Raphaelite Cello – at once ground-breaking and celebratory, and rich with first recordings. The curiosity piqued by the album’s unusual name will be amply rewarded with the fascinating story of the artistic threads this programme weaves together and their relevance to important commemorations being observed this year.

The idea was conceived and devised by pianist Oliver Davies (1938–2020)*, and the recording is dedicated to his memory. It is a tribute to the renowned British cellist Beatrice Harrison and her association with the composers of The Frankfurt Gang whose music she championed. And the occasion of this tribute is the 100th anniversary of the Nightingale Broadcast, one of the earliest ever made by the BBC from a remote location: on 19 May 1924 Beatrice sat and played her cello in the garden of “Foyle Riding” (the family home at Oxted), duetting with the local nightingales before a microphone that carried them over the airwaves to more than a million listeners and enchanted a nation.

The composers in Beatrice’s circle included a multi-year cohort of anglophone composition students under Iwan Knorr at Frankfurt before the turn of the 20th century. Englishmen Roger Quilter and Cyril Scott and the Australian Percy Grainger belonged to this Frankfurt Gang, who remained close friends after their student days in Germany and who adopted the Pre-Raphaelite banner from the like-minded brotherhood of English painters and poets, distinguishing themselves musically from other British composers through a focus on emotion rather than musical architecture. They were among the composers inspired by Beatrice’s musicianship, and their works on this album were arranged for her or played and loved by her. These are prefaced on the programme by cello-piano pieces from Iwan Knorr (the composition professor who unites the Gang) and Hugo Becker (Beatrice’s cello teacher from the age of 15).

The album launch will feature a concert by the artists at Foyle Riding on 19 May 2024, the exact centenary of the first Nightingale Broadcast.

The programme includes 10 first recordings, among them Beatrice’s favourite encore, L’Amour de moy, Quilter’s arrangement of a medieval French chanson about a nightingale, which the composer refused to publish so that it would remain hers alone. Many of these manuscripts lay undiscovered in the Harrison archive and were saved from the family barn at Hollesley Farm (including parts with Beatrice’s fingerings) by Harrison Sisters’ Trust Chairman David Candlin.

The Harrison Sisters’ Trust, which has provided generous funding and archival support for the recording, has received cellist Julian Lloyd Webber as its new President. Julian performed the 1992 concert honouring the centenary of Beatrice’s birth, when her sister Margaret Harrison joined him on the piano for Cyril Scott’s Pastoral and Reel, a work that features on this recording.

The month of May will also see publication of the second edition of The Cello and the Nightingales: The Life of Beatrice Harrison (Canongate Canons) edited by Patricia Cleveland-Peck, with a new introduction by Maria Popova.

The BBC is producing its own commemoration of the Nightingale Broadcast centenary with a Radio 3 documentary that will revisit the event, the music and associated lore such as the recently debunked claim that variety act Madame Saberon (the music hall siffleuse Maude Gould) had stood in for the nightingales!

* David Candlin befriended Margaret Harrison after a talk she had given to the Delius Society, and he promised to take her to the Royal College of Music (RCM) where she was a student from the age of four(!) and then a teacher at the end of the War.

It was during that visit (11 May 1987) that she met Oliver Davies, piano professor and RCM Keeper of Portraits, who delighted her by producing a photograph of her violin professor Achille Rivarde. So began a friendship that led to Oliver, during and after Margaret’s lifetime, devising concerts of repertoire associated with the Harrison sisters – often in Limpsfield Church where the sisters (alongside Delius and Beecham) are buried – that from 1989 would be promoted by The Harrison Sisters’ Trust. The warm reception audiences afforded to pieces like
L’Amour de moy and Cyril Scott’s Pierrot amoureux planted the seed for this cello–piano programme with colleague Adrian Bradbury in Oliver’s mind. The collaborators were prevented from recording during lockdown, and Oliver sadly died soon afterwards. Andrew West was a natural successor, being so steeped in English song and another long-standing musical partner of Adrian’s.

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