Dancing in Daylight: Contemporary Piano Trios from Ireland
John BUCKLEY (b.1951)
Piano Trio (2013) [14:30]
Fergus JOHNSTON (b.1959)
Piano Trio (2011) [15:21]
Rhona CLARKE (b.1958)
Piano Trio no.2 (2001, rev.2015) [8:19]
Seóirse BODLEY (b.1933)
Piano Trio Dancing in Daylight (2014) [13:58]
The Fidelio Trio (Darragh Morgan (violin), Adi Tal (cello), Mary Dullea (piano))
rec. Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast,4-5 July 2015
MÉTIER MSV28556 [52:15]

John Buckley’s Piano Trio was composed in 2013 for the present ensemble. The inspiration for the piece was derived from ‘mechanical devices both visual and aural’.The trio is written in three movements. The first, Shadows and Echoes, reflects ‘flickering images of pre-film animation devices such as the zoetrope’. The second is based on the once popular ‘kaleidoscope’ with its constantly shifting patterns of light and hence sound. Mechanical music infuses the finale, with a consideration of the ‘turbulent emotional lives’ of the two figures in the music box. It is a fine work that can be shorn of its ‘programme’ and enjoyed equally well as a piece of absolute music.

I was seriously impressed by Fergus Johnson’s eclectic Piano Trio. The notes state that the entire piece (three movements) springs from a four-note motif: it is how the composer develops this material that is remarkable. The first movement ‘stutters’ along with some deep growls in the piano and some ‘exploratory’ string playing. A tango follows which crosses over into boogie-woogie: a sort of Stravinsky meets Max Jaffa, Little Richard and Albeniz - riveting stuff. The mood changes in the final ‘Threnody’ which is truly a song of mourning and is beautiful in its soundscape. It is in huge contrast to the wayward middle movement.

The second of Rhona Clarke’s two (to date) Piano Trios was composed back in 2001 and revised in 2015. This piece is in two short-ish movements. The first is deeply-felt and offers a ‘romantic dialogue’ between the violin and cello. The piano keeps up a gentle tread. The second movement is influenced by Bartók and uses fugal constructions to exposit its forceful argument. There is a little relaxation halfway through, where Clarke recalls some moments from the gorgeous opening movement. It is a satisfying composition that balances romance, motor rhythms and neo-classicism.

Seóirse Bodley is the most senior composer on this CD. He was born in 1933 and has produced a wide range of compositions including five symphonies. His Piano Trio Dancing in Daylight was written in 2014 and is dedicated to fellow composer John Buckley. Bodley writes that the concept of the Trio is ‘to indicate a dance character, as if the dance took place in the open in broad daylight … Everything that happens at the dance is obvious to the onlookers: nothing is concealed.’

There are traditional Irish musical features in this work, but this is not a ‘folk’ trio as such. The elements have been synthesised into the composer’s amenable style. Especially attractive is the solo violin melody at the start of the finale, for which the ‘fiddler’ Darragh Morgan has devised his own ornamentation in Irish folk music style. It is a memorable moment.

The liner-notes by John Buckley and the composers are excellent. After a brief overview of the ‘piano trio’ genre in Ireland, each work is given a programme note. Bios of the composers and a resumé of The Fidelio Trio, which includes photographs, concludes this model booklet.

I was a little disappointed with the duration of the CD. At 52 minutes I would have thought another Trio could have been squeezed in, possibly Rhona Clarke’s first example?

The Fidelio Trio was formed during 1995 and is made up of London-based Irish musicians. Their repertoire is extensive and diverse, ranging from the established classics to premieres of many contemporary composers. CD performances include music by Arnold Schoenberg, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Michael Nyman and Judith Weir.

Their playing of these ‘new’ works on this present CD is remarkable, and displays considerable imagination and virtuosity.

I enjoyed this record of what I take to be premiere recordings. Each work is characterised by approachability, interest and a deep sense of musicality. Irish traditional music is not ignored, but is not made into pastiche. One of the best modern chamber music records I have heard in a long time.

John France

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