may be best-known as a symphonist but
chamber music was never really absent
from his large and varied output. He
composed chamber works for many different
instrumental combinations, including
a number of sonatas. The two piano trios
recorded here and a fairly recent String
Quartet Op.100 are still in
Trios were composed some twenty years
apart, and are quite different in character,
although the music obviously comes from
the same pen. The Piano Trio No.1
is in three weighty movements,
of which the first is an intricately
worked-out sonata form with a glorious
theme bringing Ireland and Moeran to
mind. The composer also admits to some
affinity with the modal inflections
and spirit of Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony.
The often tense music of the first movement
is appeased in the beautifully dreamy
slow movement nocturne. The Trio concludes
with a lively Finale that still manages
to end with a dreamy recollection the
first movement. This is strongly expressive
chamber music on a symphonic scale.
Composed a few years
later, probably in about 1986, the Viola
Sonata is also in three movements,
of which the first is the most developed
and is shot through with dark-hued eloquence.
A short, lively Scherzo of great verve
with a more lyrical central section
is followed by another long slow movement.
The Sonata is mostly lyrical, exploring
the autumnal sound-world of the viola
to great expressive effect.
The quite recent Piano
Trio No.2, though not unlike
its predecessor, somewhat shorter, more
compact and in a slightly lighter vein;
an enjoyable piece. It opens with a
breezy Allegro appassionato
followed by an often impassioned slow
movement leading straight into the robust
and lively Finale.
believes in what Stanford used to refer
to as ‘The Eternal Verities’, but he
always manages to find a personal expression
within the boundaries of tradition.
His vast output demonstrates that tradition
is no straitjacket to an imaginative
and inventive composer who has things
to say and who knows how best to say
them. These three fine pieces are no
exception, especially when played as
here, with conviction and commitment.
Recordings of the symphonies
- especially of the magnificent Fifth
- of the Viola and Cello Concertos,
the String Quartet and the Symphonic
Variations Op.95 for piano quintet,
to mention but a few, are now long overdue.
I hope that this most desirable release
will prompt others to consider Arthur
Butterworth’s music for future release.