The Piano Quintet is like the curate's egg - good in parts. The opening
movement is frankly tedious with all its stops and starts. But this reflects
the character of the composer with whom I studied. He was a moody, difficult
and changeable man. It is a lazy and boring movement. The following allegro
fares better and yet the sparkle is not quite caught. Pity since Alan
rarely wrote scintillating music. The performance of the slow movement is
masterly in this account and pleased me greatly. The finale is so
short that it is rather pointless and typical of Alan's inability to develop
The Concertante is a good piece and Nadia Myerscough gives a commendable
performance and has a glorious tone. But I prefer the account by Benedict
Holland and Alan Cuckston on a Swintsy recording.
The Piano Trio has the same small weaknesses as the Piano Quintet...
bitty, episodic, stop and start music. There are some very fine moments
but some awfully drab ones. The second of the two movements is a Theme
And Variations and, again, the music gets to the launching pad but never
And yet for all this the performance is excellent! Rawsthorne overcomes the
usual difficulties in composition for the combination of viola and piano.
It is, without doubt, his finest chamber work. It was written in 1937 before
alcoholism had blighted him and when he was concerned with writing music
that had vitality and impressive quality. This is a robust work and is therefore
successful and the piano part has an aggressive virtuosic character.
While all composers should develop their style in order to be original and
unpredictable it is a pity that Rawsthorne did not maintain the promise of
this early sonata. The second movement, a scherzo was reworked to
some extent in the Piano Concerto No 1 .... or, at least, the thematic
material is the same. The adagio tries to be tender and, at times,
almost succeeds. The finale does not work. The composer has run out
of ideas. The music is too superficial and does not belong somehow.
It is over 30 years ago since Ngoc and I played the Cello Sonata to
the composer. Although cast in three movements it is made up of twice as
many sections. It does not have the persuasive power of the Viola Sonata
but is very well written for the instruments. Alan played the cello as
well as the piano, but not very well. Parts of the adagio are quite
beautiful and the performers have the measure of the piece. The balance is
The disc is worth having for the sonatas.
John Belcher is more