Edward McGUIRE (b.1948)
Trio for horn, violin and piano (1966) [12:38]
Thomas WILSON (1927-2001)
Complementi for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1973) [16:44]
Ernst von DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)
Sextet in C major Op.37 for clarinet, horn, violin, cello and piano
rec. April 2011, RSNO Centre, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow
MERIDIAN CDE 84607 [59:00]
The versatile ensemble called Daniel’s Beard has constructed
a unique programme here. Before we begin: the group’s
name? It’s taken from Daniel Cottier, the nineteenth century
designer responsible for the interior of Cottier’s Theatre
in which the group has a residency.
Edward McGuire, Glasgow born, is an experienced composer whose
early 1966 Trio is a most engaging discovery. There is no Brahms
influence anywhere, instead a light, pithy and playful quality
abounds. The wistful ethos of the central slow movement is made
the more so by some clever conjunctions of sonorities and by
some rich chordal piano writing contrasting with limpidly supportive
lines. Little songs of love are bisected by more dramatic paragraphs.
The Allegretto finale has an almost French sense of clarity
about it, almost Poulenc-like in its witty enjoyment.
Thomas Wilson was a generation older than McGuire and his Complementi
is a terser, even epigrammatic work, employing variation form
to good effect. The instruments announce themselves via little
soliloquies, revealing their characters; the clarinet languorously,
the violin rather awkwardly, the piano questioningly, and the
cello yearningly. There are occasional puckish motifs, and the
textures remain very clear. There’s a slower ruminative
section and then a faster one full of flying energy. The work
ends, as perhaps it should, somewhat quizzically.
Dohnányi was not a Scotsman, unlike McGuire who is, and
Wilson who was. But it makes sense for the ensemble to bulk
up to take on the big challenges of his Sextet in C. This was
written in 1935. It’s typical of his sheer professionalism
but it also has some distinctly valuable qualities beyond that
appellation. The opening movement is well-balanced and sports
some warmly phrased passages from the unusual instrumentation.
For the slow movement Dohnányi contrasts the easy charm
of a slow theme with an ominous horn-led march and then follows
this, later, with some lovely, dappled decorative piano writing:
very attractive, and rather unexpected. The scherzo is deft
and enshrines a (deliberately?) sentimental B section. All restraint
is cast off in the finale, where he reveals his full colours
as a comedic composer of the first class. There’s a droll,
dance based feel, with a fugitive waltz and plenty of high jinks.
If the programming appeals, then be assured that the recording
and performances are excellent.