Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Phantasy for Piano Quartet (1911) [12.33]
Piano Quartet (1916) [27.42]
Clarinet Sonata (1946) [21.51]
Phantasie for Piano Trio (1903) [16.27]
Holywell Ensemble (Peter Nichols (cl). Margaret Ozanne (pf), Daniel Lyness (va), Kate Bailey vn), Spike Wilson (vc))
rec Radley College, 28-29 Aug 1992

These are works of a richly stocked romantic inclination with a predominantly pastoral accent. The Bridge Phantasy Quartet is a luscious work in which leafy undergrowth and shafts of dazzling light gently mingle. The mood is pretty evenly sustained though a hiccuping Mendelssohnian scherzo provides cheeky contrast. The rich melos of the work (closer to the ecstasy of his Summer than to the caustic exultation of the masterpiece Enter Spring) might well have played its part in stirring the even more affluently lyrical response of Herbert Howells in his Piano Quartet of five years later. These were five years in which the old hierarchies and countryside order reached high summer and experienced a quick and icy winter in the fields of France. The Howells is touched with a dreamlike elegiac enchantment as well as a brisk and unstoppable euphoria. However the Holywells appear out of sorts for this work. While the Bridge Quartet receives probably the best performance I have ever heard with a warm soft focus wash the ensemble and some of the intonation in the Howells creaks and falters and the playing lacks the plenteous tone and confidence to be found pre-eminently in the old Lyrita LP (SRCS 68 - Richards Piano Quartet - Yes - never reissued of course) or even the rather good but still not ideal Metier CD (MSVCD92003). This a fair and flawed account rather than one that engages you at every moment. The first movement is the most successful brimming with ecstatic hustle and rustle with something urgent to say.

The Howells Clarinet Sonata is contemporaneous with Finzi's clarinet concerto. Both works were written for and premiered by Frederick Thurston. Up to a point they share a mood and language though Howells hardly ever gave full play to the lyrical release of which Finzi was a master. Howells gift was always going to be more subtle, just as sincere, but taciturn by comparison. The Howells sonata is a work of meditation and reflection in the first movement but in the second and final movement has a jazzy dynamism we rather more readily associate with Walton's Sinfonia Concertante. The programme is rounded out and given symmetry by the Bridge's highly romantic Piano Quartet only separated by the cultural Manche from Fauré's effervescently luscious First Piano Quartet. The Holywells are successful here though their account is conservatively speckled with a hint of the blemishes apparent in the Howells quartet. Overall though a very successful performance. If you were to learn these works from this disc you would have been privileged indeed for the artists are all in step with the spirit of this treasury of music. Decent liner notes and excellent design.

Rob Barnett

UK is £10 incl UK P&P
abroad, the appropriate extra - Please approach Mr Skeet for quote.

Mike Skeet at F.R.C.
44 Challacombe
Milton Keynes MK4 1DP
phone/fax +44 (0)1908 502836


Frank Bridge

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