British composer Roger Sacheverell Coke (1912-1972) had a troubled life and was from an upper class family of Derbyshire’s historical military tradition. Despite his struggles his wealth allowed him to devote himself full time to composition in a large home studio with a splendid Steinway piano and a capacity of several hundred people.
Coke had numerous health problems, exacerbated by his heavy dependence on tobacco (it is said that he smoked more than 100 cigarettes per day) and his homosexuality, then a criminal offense. He was a prolific composer: it is worth mentioning the six piano concertos, the three symphonies and the opera in three acts taken from the play by Shelly The Cenci, financed by the Coke himself, performed only once in 1959 and criticised by the press for using a ‘outdated’ late romantic language. Simon Callaghan, a pianist who likes to experiment with rarely visited repertoire, has devoted much effort to the recovery of Coke.
This CD offers the first recordings of the 24 Preludes opp. 33 and 34, a cycle dedicated to Coke’s mother exploring the various keys in the cycle of fifths starting from C major, and the Variations Op. 37, inspired by the Variations on a Theme of Corelli of Coke’s friend Sergei Rachmaninov: compositions reminiscent of Britten and Skryabin.
The above is a rough translation of the original review in Italian which has been published in the October issue of Amadeus