WILLIAM HENRY SQUIRE (1871 - 1963)
W.H. Squire remains one of the most enduringly significant of English cellists, whose influence was wide due to his teaching activities. Educated initially at Kingsbridge Grammar School in Devon, Squire went to London’s Royal College of Music on a scholarship, receiving cello tuition from Edward Howell and studying composition with Hubert Parry and Charles Stanford, both lynchpins of the British musical ‘renaissance’. Many of Squire’s compositions, mainly for the cello (including Danse Rustique, Bourrée, Tarantella and Humoresque), remain part of the repertoire. He also composed a cello concerto, two operettas and Twelve Easy Pieces for student cellists. Amongst his lighter, popular works were Harlequinade, Consolation, Danse Orientale, a Larghetto in D, and Tzig- Tzig. He was also the dedicatee of Fauré’s Sicilienne in an arrangement for cello and piano.
The most famous and critically acclaimed of Squire’s recordings is undoubtedly his 1928 Elgar Cello Concerto with Hamilton Harty. This draws immediate comparison with Beatrice Harrison’s performance of a few months earlier, with Elgar himself conducting. Squire and Harty create a firmer, more forward sound, with fewer of Harrison and Elgar’s flexibilities of tempo and, in general, a more gritty approach. As one might expect of a cellist reaching maturity at the turn of the twentieth century, Squire uses a very slight (although almost continuous) vibrato and there are many portamenti, which are accented and loudly heard, in the nineteenth-century manner. A similar sound-world is evident in the acoustic recordings of Wagner’s ‘O Star of Eve’ (1921) and Squire’s own Meditation (1923) which are gloriously languid, displaying vividly the late-Romantic aesthetic of pronounced slides and a pure tone; and in the well-known Menuet by Gluck (c.1918) which, interestingly, also includes little scoops from just below the note, very similar to the ornamentation described in the eighteenth century by the singing pedagogue Domenico Corri. Squire can also be heard here accompanying Nellie Melba in the Bach–Gounod Ave Maria (1906) in a familiar string obbligato part close to that played by an unnamed violinist with Adelina Patti in 1905 (compare also with Melba and Kubelík’s versions of 1904 and 1913). In many ways, then, Squire provides us with an aural record of nineteenth-century cello playing which survived into the recordings era.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)