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Arthur BUTTERWORTH (b. 1923)
Piano Trio no.1 op.73 (1983) [21:06]
Piano Trio no.2 op.121 (2004) [16:13]
Viola Sonata op.78 (1982) [18:26]
Terroni Piano Trio (John Trusler (violin); Fiona Murphy (cello); Raphael Terroni (piano)) with Morgan Goff (viola)
rec. All Saint’s Church, East Finchley, 15-17 June 2005
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7164 [56:06]

Here are three comparatively recent sonatas each in three short movements. Butterworth is succinct; even gnomic in his concentration and compression of ideas. None of these sonatas is more than 22 minutes playing duration.

The First Piano Trio was commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival for the composer’s sixtieth birthday. The outer movements remind me of Ravel and the surging unleashing of song in the First Piano Quartet by Fauré and in the grievously neglected quartets of Max D’Ollonne. The composer refers to the works’ s inspiration by wintertime contemplations of past summers and springs. The central adagio is a chilly reflective piece. He also mentions the harmonic language having some affinity with one of my favourite Sibelius works - the Symphony No. 6. The 1982 Viola Sonata is a work that has that rhapsodic Baxian tendency. Briefly the piano rises in commanding mood and then the viola chimes in heavy with autumn’s sadness. Typically the sonata follows the mood-pattern of many a British viola sonata: a fast scherzo between two slow rhapsodic meditations. Mr Butterworth tells us that if there is a Baxian strand in his music it is in this work that we hear it most clearly. The sonata is well placed between two works which include music of decisive ebullience. In the Second Piano Trio the mood is one of mercurial fantasy with the composer given to sudden strokes of bleak reflection. The players wonderfully catch and sustain the gloomy power of the middle movement before launching into the spidery-light tripping of the final Allegro molto. It’s a stone’s throw away from the genial Dvořák and Smetana at times.

The notes are in the form of a helpful and engaging descriptive essay by Paul Conway as well as the composers programme notes. The composer avoids musical technicality and concentrates on biography, chronological placement and mood. He writes with candour and does not shy away from references to the music of other composers.

Here we have three works of potent reflective and expressive power. It is good to be able to have them in such totally sympathetic readings by players who have tapped into Butterworth’s concentrated mood-painting and dynamism.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Hubert Culot


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