This record has been the first opportunity I have had of encountering the music of David Earl, and my first reaction was that I am astonished that music this good should be so little known. I do not know how old David Earl is – the booklet does not give his birth year – nor do I know his musical provenance, but these two large-scale works betoken a genuine composer of considerable talent. Earl is clearly a serious creative artist, and each of these pieces will surely replay close study by the attentive listener.
Earl’s language is what mnemonically one might term ‘traditional’, but there is nothing old-fashioned in his use of his material or his sense of harmonic movement, even if there is nothing particularly individual or distinctive in the thematic material itself. His writing for both cello and piano in the Sonata are exceptional, being clearly very rewarding for the players, who have honoured him with what I can well believe is a fine performance. The solo piano Suite is also admirably laid out for the keyboard and equally demands a player of no little virtuosity; the third ‘mandala’, with a fascinatingly complex three-part texture, is superbly played by Earl himself, demonstrably a master of the instrument – as one might expect from someone who studied Bliss’s Piano Concerto with the composer. There is nothing in either of these works which will insult the intelligence of any truly musical listener; I find this music compelling and fascinating at the same time, and I strongly urge these pieces on you.
By way of ‘fixing’ Earl’s style in one’s sensibilities, it comes across as that of a latter-day inhabitant of an admixture of Rubbra and Walton, set in a structural mastery that ultimately derives from Brahms in the Sonata with an occasional greater aura of mystery, such as Holst and Malcolm Williamson exhibit, in the Suite. The recordings are excellent and this CD is strongly recommended.