Sunday, 29 April 2012

Centenary of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor II

The Chamber music of Samuel Coleridge Taylor is not often played or even performed however being the  the centenary of his death is a good excuse to upload another of his works.

Coleridge-Taylor:  Sonata in D Minor Op. 28

Albert Sammons, violin & William Murdoch, piano
Columbia L 1396 & L 1397 
[75860-1, 75861-1, 75862-1, 75863-1]
Recorded May 1917

3 Flac files in a .rar file, HERE at Mediafire. [about 46Mb]

There is a paucity of information on this work but I have garnered together the contemporary accounts. The first performance took place in 1898.

The Musical Times January 1899 issue, under the heading British Chamber Concerts, has the following notice:-  'The fifth season of this  praiseworthy and  patriotic enterprise was concluded on the 14th [December 1898],  at  the Queens (Small) Hall  … The concert on the 14th ult. was opened by a meritorious interpretation,  by Messrs. Ernest Fowles, Jasper Sutcliffe, Leonard Fowles, and Paul Ludwig, of Gerard F. Cobb's Pianoforte Quartet in E (Op. 34), and was made specially distinctive by the first performance of a Sonata in D minor (Op. 28) for pianoforte and violin, by Mr. Coleridge-Taylor. This work fully maintains the reputation which this gifted young composer has so early acquired. The music seems to have much to express, and the three movements, severally headed  allegro ma non tanto,  "Lament" Larghetto, and Allegro vivo con fuoco,  the last terminating with a mourful section entitled Alla  moresco, tell a tale that appears to range over the whole scale of sentiment. The "Lament" is  really beautiful and seems to  "give sorrow words." The work was sympathetically interpreted  by Mr. Ernest Fowles and Mr. Jasper Sutcliffe, and should be heard again at an  early date.

Alas this appears to be the works only performance during Coleridge-Taylor's lifetime. The work was revived during the First World War again The Musical Times of April 1916 reports on the performance:-  'The All British Concerts run by Mr. de Lara have maintained activity in a good cause. A Sonata in D minor for pianoforte and violin by Coleridge-Taylor was played on [March 23 1916]. It had rested for seventeen years, and deserved revival.’ I also hope to return someday to Isidore de Lara (1858-1935) and his All British Concerts of 1916-1919  held in the main at London Steinway Hall but must press on!

Albert Sammons
William Murdoch

The same periodical  in May of the following year recorded the next performance also :- 'A large audience was attracted on April 14 [1917], to hear Mr. Albert Sammons and Mr. William Murdoch perform three Sonatas for violin and pianoforte. The first was the charming Beethoven Sonata in F, Op. 34. The second item was a quasi novelty. It was a MS. Sonata in D minor by the late S. Coleridge Taylor, which, it appears, was composed before 1898, because in that year it was produced by Mr. Ernest Fowles. It is a melodious and generally attractive work which, now that it has been revived by such a fine performance as it received on this occasion, will be heard again and again. The third Sonata was that by John Ireland, which not long ago was awarded a prize.… .'

Additional  information on the sonata and the above performances can be found in W.W. Cobbett's Cyclopaedia of Chamber Music OUP, 1930, Vol. II p. 490:-  'The chamber music of Coleridge Taylor was nearly all composed while still a pupil of Stanford at the R.C.M., where he gained an open scholarship for composition in 1893. Previous to this year he devoted himself principally to the study of the violin, and his knowledge of this instrument was of the greatest service to him in the writing of concerted music. Whilst most of the students of his period were modelling their chamber works upon those of Brahms, Coleridge Taylor, almost alone amongst contemporary English composers, was strongly influenced by the music of Dvorak. There was, indeed, a close affinity in his style with that of the famous bohemian. A colourist rather than a draughtsman in music, Coleridge Taylor's melodic invention was always rhythmic and fluent, and there was often a peculiarly attractive glow in his harmonic schemes. His chamber music, while exhibiting admirable ease and decision, is more remarkable for fluency and warmth of feeling than for depth of thought or serious expression. The Sonata for piano and violin, edited by Albert Sammons, was published during the war by permission of Mr Ernest Fowles (who possessed the MS.), and produced at one of the de Lara concerts, played by Harriet Cohen and Winifred Small. W.W. Cobbett, who handed various donations to composers whose works were played at these concerts, awarded the prize in this particular instance to Coleridge Taylor's widow – perhaps a unique circumstance. The composer is not heard quite at his best in this work, which is more in the nature of a light suite than a sonata; nevertheless, his strong individuality is felt throughout, and it has considerable charm.'

The only review I have located so far of the recording is again from The Musical Times (my bedtime reading)  in the February 1921 issue by 'Discus':- ‘Coleridge-Taylor's Sonata in D minor for violin and pianoforte, played by Sammons and Murdoch, is a very successful reproduction on two d.-s. records. As usual in this type of record the violin comes oft best, but the balance is well up to the average, and with two such players, the tuneful work is made the most of.'

The recording was made in  May 1917, however the issue was delayed until January & February 1921. Why it took four years to issue may have been due to the major fire in May 1918 at Columbia's factory at Brendon Valley. The issue of new titles did not begin to be issued again until November 1918 and throughout 1919 records were issued as soon as they became available, irrespective of original catalogue number. The Sonata on L1396 & L1397 was therefore not processed until november 1920 and issued over the two months of January  & February 1921. The recording was substituted in August 1923 by the another performance of the Sonata with Arthur Catterall and William Murdoch, (Sammons having gone over to Æolian Vocalion by this time) this lasted until deletion in April 1927. In the early 1920s quite a number of Columbia records were replaced with better recordings however in this case I strongly suspect that the recording speed was a major reason for substitution. Although the labels state 'Speed 80' the first side starts at 85 and then as the performance progresses the speed gradually has to rise to 94 at the close to stay in pitch, thus it starts off a semi-tone down and ends two full tones down! 

You will be glad to hear I have managed to sort this problem out on the transfer. Only one other recording has been made since these early attempts on the Dutton label

Cartoon inscribed by members of the Beecham Orchestra in 1911
among them the then leader Albert Sammons. 


  1. Thanks for all this fascinating background stuff! Not sure about 'light suite', as Cobbett put it (that assessment you quote was penned by the man himself), but I agree it's not quite a Sonata either... still, bully for CT for trying something different. Perhaps not surprising that he should be influenced by Dvorák, though there's perhaps a touch too much Bruch in the mix too? Great transfer, as always! Nick

    1. Just a softie for all the the background material - bit of a shame he did not do more of the Chamber Music later in his career.


  2. Well this is a rarity! Thanks for sharing and for all the thorough information! Greetz,

  3. What a fascinating item. Thanks, Jolyon!

  4. Thanks Buster

    It is really not a bad piece and a real shame it as actually fallen from the repertoire.


  5. Listening to it now - it is a very interesting piece, and your transfer is really impressive.

  6. Dear Buster - I like the piece the more I hear it - the paucity of recordings of S C-T is a bit of a shame. Thanks for your encouraging words on my transfer - I try not to to clean the sound too much and try and balance the sound as I think it would have sounded in the studio, not as per a modern performance - it means the instruments might sound a bit unbalanced as if sitting too close to some and too far from others, but then the ear/brain seems to be able to understand the sound better .


  7. Thank you very much for this! How did you adjust (so well) for the pitch drift? In playback, or via software?

    I do hear lots of Dvorak Sonatina in this, but also echoes of Grieg. Following along (,_Op.28_(Coleridge-Taylor,_Samuel)) you can see that there are numerous cuts, including much of the last movement. I wonder if Catterall is complete?

    Thanks again....your blog is a joy!


  8. The pitch thing is tricky but you can do it using DiamondCut DC8 - basically working out the initial & end pitch of each side and do a bit of number crunching and it should give you a linear percentage drop or rise - that's assuming the pitch variation is linear, which in this case it is.

    I would think that the Catterall/Murdoch is almost the same - I don't have a copy of that performance but hope someone else might upload it sometime.


  9. Yes, that's how I do it! I'm 98% using Mac programs these days, but's that's still one thing I use DC (7) for. My jaw drops every time I see Ward Marston do a pitch drift adjustment on the fly. He uses a tuner and adjusts the turntable speed as he's dubbing! Most of the Trio de la cour de Belgique sides (I'm working on now) have this problem. After going Mac, I'm very much a fan of Audiofile Engineering's Wave Editor...crossfaded side joins are much easier to do since you can toggle the "new" side back and forth and adjust fades after the sides are aligned.



  10. Thanks for making this transfer available. I've been hoping to hear this recording for many years, since discovering the piece in about 1999 (I performed and recorded it with violinist Wilson Collins and will be happy to send you a copy if you want). Fascinating about it being replaced - on the same catalogue number, apparently - by the Catterall recording, Another one to look out for!