Another release that looks interesting at first sight, and yet which, regrettably, turns out to disappoint. Initial impressions are not good: the booklet looks and feels as though it has been home-produced on a desktop printer, and the notes are very scant indeed. No recording location is given.
Rebecca Clarke’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano opens the disc. The string playing from Jacqueline Hartley and Martin Loveday is not especially well-unified – the attack and duration of notes have, perhaps, not been sufficiently considered. The pizzicato in the third movement Allegro vigoroso
has a slightly rough and harsh tone (especially in the violin); the intonation of the faster passages is sometimes slightly dodgy; and the tone is generally too thin – not robust enough for the music’s character, although I have to confess that I found the music also rather on the insipid side.
The ensuing John Ireland Phantasie in A minor didn’t fare much better - much more drive is needed at the opening; the Hartley Trio’s approach is far too literal and lacking in imagination and spirit. The balance is also rather poor – the cello sound muddy and obscured in the texture for much of the time when all three instruments are playing (and especially in forte
sections). I found the same problems of ensemble as in the Clarke Trio - the ends of phrases are particularly sloppy here.
Although the Frank Bridge Phantasie in C minor doesn’t have quite so many technical problems, it is nevertheless given a rather bland performance, with not enough drama or meaning in the phrases. The concluding Clarke Sonata for Viola and Piano with Philip Dukes accompanied by Sophia Rahman is altogether a more successful performance – the players achieve a good degree of unity between instruments; and capture a convincing sense of sweep and drive. The only two minor criticisms I have here are that the recorded sound of the viola is a shade edgy, and that the tempo in the second movement Vivace
sounds rather careful.
A shame, but this disc wouldn’t be one I would turn to for performances of any of these works.
For another perspective see review
by Rob Barnett