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Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in B flat (1946):
(Allegro con brio [6:20]; Adagio (alia breve) con moto [8:02]; Tempo moderate e molto ritmico [0:38])
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in D (1934):
(Molto moderato [8:48]; Vivace [4:54])
Folk-Tale for Cello and Piano (1918) - Moderate tempo [8:08]
Clarinet Sonata in E major (1901): Allegro moderato [8:59]
Romance for Clarinet and Piano (1901): Andante con moto – Allegretto [7:47]
Trio in One Movement for Piano, Violin and Clarinet (1906) [17:08]:
(Allegro vivace - Andante con moto -Molto largamente -Tempo di Valse - Piu lento pochissimo grazioso – Prestissimo)
Robert Plane (clarinet);
Gould Piano Trio (Lucy Gould (violin); Alice Neary (cello); Benjamin Frith (piano))
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK, 21-23 December 2004
NAXOS 8.557698 [76:44]

This truly delightful disc from Naxos contains a broad spectrum of chamber music by Arnold Bax. They range from works written when he was a student at the Royal Academy of Music - and which he later suppressed - to the last chamber piece he composed (in 1946), the Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in B flat, with which the disc opens.
The Trio was written for the Harry Isaacs piano trio, who had asked Bax to compose something for their forthcoming Wigmore concert. Bax initially refused, saying that the medium of piano trio was too hard, then changed his mind. This is an innovative and unusual piece, wonderfully characterful and with hints of Peter Warlock and shades of jazz in some of the harmonies and rhythms. The opening, quite passionate, Allegro con brio, is followed by a gentle and romantic second movement Adagio (alia breve) con moto and the work concludes with a lively and slightly more discordant Tempo moderato e molto ritmico.
The ensuing Clarinet Sonata was composed in 1934, and dedicated to Hugh Prew, a fellow player in Bax’s brother’s cricket team and an amateur clarinetist. It is an evocative and interesting work, and sensitively performed.
The Folk Tale is deeply romantic and evocative, nostalgic and wistful, and contains some radiant and passionate playing from cellist Alice Neary. It was premiered, only a few weeks after completion, by Bax himself with Salmond - who also gave the premiere of Elgar’s cello concerto - at the Wigmore Hall. Bax later dedicated the work to Salmond.
Back to the clarinet with the next piece, for the second clarinet sonata on this disc, written in 1901. This is another charming, romantic work, expressively performed. Although this clarinet sonata is in one movement, the Romance that follows could have been intended as a second movement. The Romance is an impassioned little piece that opens and ends gently.
The disc concludes with the Trio in One Movement, which was scored for piano, violin and viola – probably due to the influence of Lionel Tertis, but Bax instructed that the viola part can be played on clarinet. This fantastic piece was dedicated to the Irish composer Rowan-Hamilton. It contains strong hints of Irish folk music, and is full of vigorous joy and the vibrancy of life, brought out well in this outstanding performance.
The Gould Piano Trio’s playing is confident, assured, characterful and sensitive, and they bring out the tremendous sense of fun in these works. Although there are other - also excellent - recordings of these works, at a budget price this disc, where a good combination of brilliant and beautiful works are so well-played, can’t be beaten.
Em Marshall

see also review by Tony Haywood

British Composers on Naxos page



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