skip to Main Content

Unquestionably deserves to be explored and celebrated

Coke Hyperion

EPTA Journal, Alexander Thompson

Coke Piano Concertos – Hyperion

From an aristocratic Derbyshire family, Eton educated pianist-composer Roger Sacheverell Coke (1912-72) is a figure who has become almost totally obscure. On the evidence of his highly persuasive, well-crafted and melodically attractive piano concertos 3-5 (recorded here for the first time) he wrote in a nostalgically romantic idiom, clearly heavily under the influence of Sergei Rachmaninov. The influence of the older Russian master’s first concerto is immediately obvious in the first movement of the 3rd concerto, written in 1938, where Simon Callaghan is clearly in his element, enjoying the abundance of double octaves whilst never losing melodic elegance nor beauty of tone. Perhaps there is a more of an affinity with John Ireland than romantic Russia in the same concerto’s central movement, a set of ten variations on a dreamily chromatic theme. Here as elsewhere the luscious orchestral writing, particularly in the strings, is unquestionably noteworthy. Some may find the 3rd concerto’s finale a little too cliché-ridden, lacking sufficient energetic resolve and bite. Though there are striking moments for solo violin, ‘cello and flute with piano accompaniment, overall it relies too heavily on sequences and common-place harmonic progressions, tendencies that are mercifully absent in the other movements.

The opening of Coke’s Fourth Concerto (1940) will inevitably remind the listener of Rachmaninov’s Third, though the music is more cinematographic than this famous precursor. Callaghan clearly relishes the thick, busy textures in Coke’s solo part, and there is no denying the vivid excitement and contrasting colours that are presented. Perhaps World War 2 is responsible for the dark, ominous characterisation in its first movement. This is pessimistic, grim and rather rhapsodic writing that owes much not only to Rachmaninov but also to Sibelius, and even early/middle period Scriabin. As with the slow movement, there is also a harmonic affinity with John Ireland. But just how memorable and individually striking this music is will remain open to subjectivity. What does remain an indisputable and constant recurring tendency through all the movements on the disc is the beauty of Coke’s orchestration- and in this -characteristically excellent- Hyperion recording the BBCSSO are obviously enjoying the abundant opportunities for colouristic celebration that they are afforded. This is certainly evident in the introspective, at times hauntingly disturbed slow movement. Music that can be unsettling and anguished, with a searching longing that demands attention. Unfortunately, the finale of no. 4 is less persuasive- as with the last movement of the 3rd concerto, there is an intrinsic lack of conviction and drive to much of the writing, which consequently appears incoherent and overly complex as a result.

The sole surviving movement of Coke’s fifth and final concerto, a slow movement is impassioned and beautifully orchestrated, providing the performers with a wonderfully lyrical vehicle for expressive music making. A happy conclusion to an intriguingly mixed bag of music- but one which unquestionably deserves to be explored and celebrated.

You may also like to see...
Both performers are at their best in the striking slow movement
Beautifully performed
Deep-rooted conviction
A classy album of deep musicality and sensitivity
Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger
The performances on this disc are spirited, well-shaped and refined
Simon Callaghan played with breathtaking nuance in the extremely complex, intricate "Le jardin parfumé" by Kaikhosru Sorabji
Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger
Consummate ease and brilliance
Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger
Rapturous … highly recommended
Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger
Callaghan makes the case for both with flair and conviction
Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger
Sent into the shadows by Simon Callaghan ✶✶✶✶
Bernhard Scholz And Josef Rheinberger
The performances here are excellent, with Simon Callaghan making light work of the works' technical demands
Simon Callaghan’s interpretation was superb
Coke Hyperion
Callaghan once again shows himself to be one of the leading young British pianists
Record Review Simon Callaghan
Impressive pianism – BBC Radio 3 Record Review
Coke Hyperion
Callaghan's achievement of myriad tonal hues adds greatly to the allure
Coke Hyperion
Passion, total commitment …heartfelt affection
Coke Hyperion
Performances from all concerned are admirable
Coke Hyperion
A commendable revival of works dug out of the archives by the pianist himself
Warp And Weft, EMR CD043
Velvet-gloved pianism of ravishing sensitivity from Simon Callaghan
A display of exemplary musicianship
One of the festival highlights
English pianist Simon Callaghan presented an evening of captivating sound and fantasy which was rightly celebrated with enthusiastic ‘bravi’
Five Stars for Callaghan's Roger Sacheverell Coke CD on the Somm label
Simon Callaghan, a pianist who likes to experiment with rarely visited repertoire, has devoted much effort to the recovery of Coke
Callaghan with the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia
Played so faithfully here by Simon Callaghan
This release has been an exciting discovery
Commanding and virtuosic musicianship
Finely played, full of brilliance and virtuosity
Callaghan's spirited and skilful playing is impressive
An eloquent advocate
A new figure and force
Simon Callaghan proves the ideal partner, subtly weighting and detailing the music’s shifting harmonic and textural profiles
You will not be disappointed
Manner from on high
An adventurous selection of not-so-well-known sonatas delivered with aplomb
Back To Top