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Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Elegiac Trio (1916) [9:22]
William MATTHIAS (1934-1992)
Zodiac Trio Op.70 (1976) [16:53]
Richard Rodney BENNETT (b.1936)
Sonata after Syrinx (1985) [15:13]
Jan BACH (b.1937)
Eisteddfod (1972) [22:24]
Aureole Trio
rec. Concordia College, Bronxville, New York, June 2000
KOCH KIC-CD 7538 [64:25]
Experience Classicsonline

A quartet of works, three by British-born composers, is here conjoined under the astral supertitle, Zodiac, which is the name Mathias gave to his own Op.70 Trio. It’s an opportunity for the Aureole Trio - secondary meaning, the sun’s corona, so not an inappropriately named group - to explore some less well explored crevices of these composers’ worklists.

Mathias wrote his Trio in 1976. Each movement is given a name - Pisces, Aries and Taurus - and was composed for a specific member of the original trio for which it was written. Cleverly wrought and strongly characterised it makes for a fine curtain raiser. Pisces is duly slippery, murky, but the sparkling bright flute over harp and richly eloquent viola lends it a flecked appeal. One might be reminded a little of Prokofiev in Aries with its yearning reverie of bittersweet intensity whilst Taurus briefly returns to the glittering drama of the opening movement before some strong harmonic interplay leads to a vital and masculine finish.

Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sonata after Syrinx owes an obvious debt to Debussy, even to the extent of briefly quoting from Syrinx, but this is a basis for development, not a homage that gets stuck in the rivulets of the past. Within its quarter of an hour span Bennett fashions a tempo changing and evocatively harmonised opus, of which the scherzo section is perhaps the most immediately appealing. Here the writing is full of variety and vivacity, quivering with giddy warmth. Bax’s Elegiac Trio is the most compact of the four works and it’s played here with warmth and lyricism. Its fluidity is well maintained.

Jan Bach is an American composer and French horn player - he played at John F Kennedy’s funeral during his Army days - and his Eisteddfod is based on a Welsh harp tune. The variations employ a finely gauged interplay between the instruments and though its bardic origins are clear enough they’re not pummelled. Fortunately Bach knows when to lighten the temperature and his scherzo section is convivial and perky. The flighty flute song over supple harp undercurrent is especially good - the flute is an active participant, the viola, whilst also loquacious, a rather more sombre entrant. A fine work.

The performances are sensitive and finely textured. With good notes and an unproblematic recording this may be more of a niche purchase, but it’s a very good niche purchase.

Jonathan Woolf





















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