1:10pm - 2pm
Wednesday 28 September 2022

Lunchtime Recital - David Burrows (Cello)

For the first concert in our Wednesday lunchtime series, the University of Surrey is delighted to present a celebrity recital by David Burrowes and Margaret Roberts, both of whom teach in the Music Faculty.  They will be playing two of the great works for cello and piano written at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the sonatas by Debussy and Rachmaninoff.


PATS Studio One
PATS Building
University of Surrey

David Burrowes sang as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, and later was a choral scholar at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he read Music. Whilst working in London, he appeared as guest principal cellist with the London Mozart Players and City of London Sinfonia, and also played extensively with the Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras.  From 1998-2020, he was Principal Cello in the London production of Phantom of the Opera. He is currently Principal Cello of English Classical Players and of Southern Pro Musica. In the field of chamber music, he is cellist with the Cirrus Quartet. As a member of Primavera, he has performed at the Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, and has appeared on a number of highly acclaimed CDs with both groups.  Amongst his solo recording credits is a CD of the Brahms Double Concerto, and a CD of music from the Celtic Revival for cello and piano, alongside readings by his wife Sarah Hayhurst of the poetry and letters of W. B. Yeats. He is also much in demand as a cello teacher and chamber music coach. Since 2000, he has held the post of Associate Lecturer at the University of Surrey, and from 2010-2017, he was Director of the annual cello course at Pro Corda.


From early on in her career Margaret Roberts has worked as a collaborative pianist, playing for some of the first BBC Young Musician of the Year competitions. As a music student at Brasenose College, Oxford, she specialised in piano performance and, as Organ Exhibitioner, directed the chapel choir and played for college services and concerts.  She graduated with first class honours before postgraduate study at the Royal College of Music. She has pursued a varied career, teaching piano in school and university music departments, and accompanying young musicians in competitions, auditions and recitals. Living abroad with her family for extended periods, Margaret has taught in the British Schools of Athens, Brussels and Bratislava, also performing with soloists from Greece, Turkey and Central Europe, giving recitals and masterclasses in the Conservatoires and Festival series of Ankara, Bratislava and Athens.  Abroad, she worked as Musical Director for many shows, pantomimes, cabarets and revues, and locally she spent some years directing a singing group at a day centre for the homeless. She has premiered and recorded specially commissioned works, and with The Holywell Ensemble she has performed at major venues including London's South Bank and the Wigmore Hall.  She has toured for the British Council and recorded for the ABRSM graded examinations


Programme notes by David Burrowes


Claude Debussy                     Sonate pour Violoncelle et Piano


  1. Lent
  2. Serenade
  3. Finale       


This sonata dates from 1915. It was intended to be the first in a set of six sonatas, but due to ill health, Debussy was only able to complete three of the set before his death in 1918.


It consists of three movements, with the second and third to be performed attacca. Despite its relatively short length of around twelve minutes, the sonata explores a wide range of moods and tone colours. The melodies never linger long in one musical atmosphere, but instead present a succession of ideas. The composer employs many subito dynamics and sudden changes of tempo, which contributes to the fragmented stream of musical thoughts.

This is particularly true of the second movement, entitled Serenade, which is notable for some unusual pizzicato effects in the cello. Debussy remarked to a cellist friend that he had considered entitling this movement ‘Pierrot angry with the moon’, reflecting the ironic nature of music which undoubtedly has a programmatic flavour.

The Finale alternates in character between acrobatic appassionata sections and slow rubato sections with instantaneous transitions. The first rubato section requires the cellist to strum dominant seventh chords similar to a guitar while the second is marked con morbidezza and is the most tender, static moment in the entire work.  


Serge Rachmaninoff                         Sonata in G minor op.19


  1. Lento – Allegro Moderato
  2. Scherzo
  3. Andante
  4. Finale – Allegro Mosso


The sonata for cello and piano holds a unique spot in Rachmaninoff’s catalogue of major works in that it features a solo instrument other than piano. The sonata was composed in 1901, the year in which Rachmaninoff made the breakthrough to international stardom.

After the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897, Rachmaninoff composed little of note until 1901 when he returned to composition, completing his second piano concerto Op. 18. The huge acclaim for the concerto spurred a compositional outpouring with the cello sonata following on the heels of the concerto.  Rachmaninoff premiered the sonata on December 2nd with his good friend Russian cellist Anatoly Brandukov, to whom the sonata is dedicated. 

 This is a sonata on a grand scale, containing a succession of wonderful melodies full of the expansive, soaring lines typical of Russian Romantic lyricism. There are certainly sections of energy and drive, particularly in the scherzo, and the piano writing is on a majestic scale throughout, but outside these moments the composer creates space and breadth for his ideas and in so doing creates a broad and expansive canvas and takes the listener on a long journey.