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 (1935) [29:50]
Daniel’s Beard
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.
Jonathan Woolf

If the programming appeals, then be assured that the recording and performances are excellent.