CHAMBER MUSIC OF HOWELLS (1892-1983) AND BRIDGE
Frank BRIDGE Phantasy for Piano Quartet (1911)
Herbert HOWELLS Piano Quartet (1916)
Herbert HOWELLS Clarinet Sonata (1946)
Frank BRIDGE Phantasie for Piano Trio (1903)
Holywell Ensemble (Peter Nichols
(cl). Margaret Ozanne (pf), Daniel Lyness (va), Kate Bailey vn), Spike Wilson
rec Radley College, 28-29 Aug 1992
BRITISH MUSIC LABEL BML 003
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.
UK is £10 incl UK P&P
abroad, the appropriate extra - Please approach Mr Skeet for quote.
Mike Skeet at F.R.C.
Milton Keynes MK4 1DP
phone/fax +44 (0)1908 502836