AN ENGLISH RHAPSODY
William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Rhapsody for piano quartet (1938)
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Fantasy-Sonata for clarinet and piano (1943)
Rhapsody for piano (1915)
Phantasie for piano trio (1906)
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Violin Sonata No. 1 (1917)
Jeffery WILSON (b.1957)
Elegy for clarinet, cello and piano (1988)
The Holywell Ensemble (Margaret
Ozanne (piano); Kate Bailey (violin); Daniel Lyness (viola); Spike Wilson
(cello); Peter Nichols (clarinet))
rec, Silk Hall, Radley College, 25-26 Aug 1994
BRITISH MUSIC LABEL BML 010 [76.10]
This is a follow-up to the Holywell Ensemble's extremely successful album
(BML 003) of chamber music by Howells and Bridge in 1993. The combination
of pieces worked and works very well. The
Alwyn is an earlyish piece
(1938) which is impressionistic in a Gallophile way with the central episode
being more Ravel than Debussy. The outer sections of this 10 minute
essay are athletic in the manner of his Concerto Grosso No. 1 but
there are figurations that suggest Bax including some filigree work that
might indicate acquaintance with the Bax's Winter Legends. The opening
pages have the pungent stamp of the Howells' Piano Quartet though there the
'Fantasy' and 'Rhapsody' are the order of the day with this collection. Even
the Howells Sonata began life as a W W Cobbett-style Phantasy
Sonata. The Ireland Clarinet
work is well known and multiply recorded. Peter Nichols gives a fine account
and if you get to know the work in this version you will be in good hands.
However, for this listener, the version by John Denman and Paula Fan on another
BML disc is to be preferred. Nichols is a shading more reedy than Denman's
Howells is clearly something of a speciality for the Holywell Ensemble.
BML 003 includes his Piano Quartet and Clarinet Sonata alongside two works
by Frank Bridge. The First Violin Sonata is up against superior
competition from Hyperion's team of Paul Barritt and Catherine Edwards. Barritt
is more secure of intonation in a work whose Delian melisma needs such security.
Kate Bailey's violin part lacks nothing in passion though and the piano role
taken by Margaret Ozanne evinces great concentration and a thorough grounding
in Howells' almost religious sense of meditation. In this area however I
must commend the Hyperion (CDA66665) also because it sports the other two
violin sonatas in a cogently assembled anthology.
Hearing Margaret Ozanne tackle the crystal and granite song and caprice of
Ireland's Rhapsody for solo piano whisks me back thirty
years to a friend's basement flat in Paignton where I first made the acquaintance
of these works in the mono Lyrita recordings (not by the much vaunted Eric
Parkin) but in the hands of Alan Rowlands. Rowlands has, most regrettably,
been eclipsed (only in public reputation) by Parkin. Ozanne tackles the awkward
piano writing with naturalness. Rhapsody has a tumultuous clangour
which takes something from the slaughter year (1915) in which it was written.
Ireland fans must hear this.
Jeffery Wilson studied for a while with Howells and this might well
account for the rounded flow of this Elegy (cello, clarinet
and piano) in memory of the composer's father who died in 1988 but Bach too
is an unmistakable presence. Affecting sincere music.
Ireland's Phantasie Trio (Cobbett-inspired again) is as Brahmsian
as his only marginally less successful and similarly Brahmsian Octet. It
is awash in Dvorákian melos as well as all the apparatus of the grand
manner of Brahms. The work is given a most convincing performance and the
recording is commandingly strong.
A successfully variegated collection.