Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Piano Trio No. 1 Phantasie Trio (1907)
Piano Trio No. 2 (1929)
Phantasy Piano Quartet (1911)

Dartington Piano Trio
rec Haberdashers' Aske's School, Elstree, 10-11 July 1987
HYPERION CDH55063 [64.55]
Crotchet   £5.99 AmazonUK   AmazonUS
Frank Bridge Web site

Hyperion has shown an enlightened approach to catalogue management. Freshening up their back catalogue by transferring it to the midprice Helios label has yielded up dividends for collectors and this is certainly the case here.

The Bridge trios and quartet were first issued as CDA66279 and have proved an impossible act to follow. The two Phantasies (derived from Cobbett competitions) are in substantially the same idiom which derives from Brahmsian triumphalism toned and made supple by Fauré's ecstatic lyrical release as in the Frenchman's First Piano Quartet. The Dartingtons were always a strong ensemble with Frank Wibaut (piano), Oliver Butterworth (violin) and Michael Evans (cello). They play the Phantasie Piano Trio for all it is worth extracting a fragrant tunefulness, glowing sentiment and warm sentiment from this most lovely of British chamber works. They take the work at a more measured pace than the Holywell Ensemble British Music Label BML 003. The same irresistibly 'sticky' approach to melody casts its caramelised (but not saccharine) spell over the predominantly dramatic pages of the Piano Quartet. The Trio are joined by Patrick Ireland for this. Both works were written for the various Cobbett competitions.

The Piano Trio No. 2 evinces a complete change of language; little wonder that critics of the day (1929) were dumbfounded by a transformation that first announced itself in the pages of the 1925 Piano Sonata (dedicated to Ernest Farrar killed in the Great War) developed in his masterwork Enter Spring and found total consummation in two works for soloist and orchestra: Oration - Concerto Elegiaco (cello and orchestra) and Phantasm (Rhapsody for piano and orchestra). The Trio leases behind 'childish toys' and in wisps, shadows and fragments explores the paths of Bartók, Webern and van Dieren though avoiding multilinear complexity. The Trio is given with utmost sensitivity. Anything less would crush its silky-steel structure and strained tonality. It is the most extreme example of his spare later style. It needs persistence from the listener to enter its crepuscular leafy world. Personally my preference would be for the marginally less chilly performance and recording by the Borodin Trio on Chandos (CHAN8495) but the temperature drop sustained by the Dartingtons is probably a closer match for the mood of this elusive work. If I were to go looking for quibbles it would have to be that the Miniatures for piano trio could easily have been squeezed onto the disc. While those Miniatures (three sets) are no great shakes their salon simplicities (first experienced in the hands of the Hanson Trio on Pearl LP SHE 586) would have provided yet a further contrast. No gripes about the notes from Bridge expert Paul Hindmarsh. We must hope that rumours about Chandos recording the complete Bridge orchestral music will turn out to be more than mere speculation. Meantime do snap up this disc.

Rob Barnett

Frank Bridge Web site

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