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The Trio in G Minor for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano

by William Yeates Hurlstone

a Critical Reassessment

Richard J Moore

364 Catherington Lane, Waterlooville, HANTS, PO8 0TU, UK

(13th May 2004, 1st revision 9th July 2004, 2nd revision 29th September 2004, 3rd revision 21st October 2004, 4th revision 21st January 2005, 5th revision 25th February 2005, 6th revision 23rd November 2006)

Richard J Moore Copyright © 2004

Examination of the Trio
Concluding Remarks

The full document can be downloaded as a PDF file here


The Trio in G Minor by William Hurlstone is one of only a handful of works written for clarinet, bassoon and piano; as such, it will be of interest to clarinettists and bassoonists alike. This attractive piece, written in the late 19th century, provides a valuable addition to the repertoire. It has both audience and player appeal; however, from a performer's perspective it is a frustrating work to prepare. The parts and score of the only publicly available source abound with inconsistencies. Even with the latest Emerson edition, while matters of inconsistency have been addressed, it is still difficult to decipher exactly the intent of the composer; the gratuitous overuse of expression marks is particularly troublesome. In comparison, Hurlstone's Four Characteristic Pieces for Clarinet and Piano and his Sonata for Bassoon and Piano are both finely crafted works. It is therefore a mystery as to why the Trio should be so uncharacteristic of Hurlstone's usual attention to detail.

The first printed (Emerson) editioni of the Trio was based on the only publicly accessible source: a professional copy of the autograph made during the 1930s. This source suffers not only from having had alterations made by Parrii, but in its original form it was hardly a faithful reproduction of the autograph. Among the faults that could be readily detected (but not necessarily easily corrected) were inconsistent markings of expression and incorrect harmony. It became apparent that a revision of the printed edition was necessary. Emerson appointed an external editor to undertake this task. This resulted in the publishing of the second editioniii of the Trio, where all readily detectable faults were addressed. Independently of this, the author had already embarked upon a detailed study of the autograph manuscript (which is in private handsiv). From this privileged position it has been possible to gain an insight into the composer's compositional process. Moreover, it has also been possible to determine the extent to which the 1930s copy of the Trio (and thus both of the Emerson editions) had diverged from the autograph. To aid the conscientious performer, the author has now prepared a set of some 450 corrigenda and observationsv. These should be collated with Emerson's second edition to produce the correct Urtext.

In the course of researching this work, two significant and related discoveries have been made:

  1. a Scherzo third movement had been omitted from both published editions as well as from the professional copy commissioned in the 1930s;

  2. the order of the first and last movements had been reversed in both published and professional copies.

With the Scherzo restored, the first and last movements interchanged, numerous corrections applied, and erroneous annotations removed, the Trio in G Minor has become a rather more substantial work and one worthy of serious attention.

In this article I shall discuss evidence that the Scherzo belongs to the Trio in G Minor and that its removal and the subsequent exchanging of the outer movements were neither of the composer's intent nor justified. New information relating to Hurlstone's activities as performer and composer has surfaced; this is also presented here. It had been long understood that the Trio received its première in 1901vi and indeed dated form that time. However, by making a comparative study of Hurlstone's handwriting and manuscripts it has been possible to date the Trio in G Minor as being composed around 1896/97 and to conclude that it had probably never received a public performance during Hurlstone's lifetime.

i Emerson edition no. 62 ©1983

ii John Parr (1869-1962), Sheffield bassoonist. Organised throughout the Monthly Chamber Concerts at the Victoria Hall, Sheffield 1930-1957. He is responsible for having discovered much unusual and unpublished wind repertoire. A large proportion of his personal library now resides at the British Library.

iii Emerson second edition no. 62 ©1998, ed. Diana Bickley.

iv Waterhouse private library, Gloucestershire.

v Corrigenda to the Trio in G Minor is available from the author.

vi K. Hurlstone, p 58 confuses the Trio in G Minor with the Four Characteristic Pieces for Clarinet and Piano where she incorrectly cites the 1900 Clinton concert as the Trio's première.


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