Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1894)
Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op.114 (1891) [24:12] Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 In memory of a Great Artist (1881-82) [39:38] Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Gypsy Melodies, B104, Op.55 No.4 Songs My Mother Taught Me (1880), arr. Heinrich Grünfeld [2:51] Hamilton HARTY (1879-1941)
Scherzo, from Romance and Scherzo, Op.8 (1903) [3:54] Jean HURÉ (1877-1930)
Air (1901) [3:53] Emile DUNKLER (1840-1871)
La fileuse (The spinning wheel) [2:31]
WH Squire (cello)
Haydn P Draper (clarinet), Hamilton Harty (piano: Brahms), Arthur Catterall (violin), William Murdoch (piano: Tchaikovsky), George Thomas Pattman (organ: Huré)
rec. October 1924, London (Brahms), December 1926, Wigmore Hall, London (Tchaikovsky); small pieces, 1927-28, London PRISTINE AUDIO PACM101 [77:24]
Five years ago I reviewed a Historic Recordings transfer of this Tchaikovsky Trio performance (HRCD00024) in which the coupling was Arthur Catterall and William Murdoch’s splendid 1924 recording of Franck’s Sonata – not then a work as ubiquitous on disc as it has subsequently become. It was, in fact, the sonata’s first complete recording. Now, in a valuable boutique series devoted to the art of pioneering cellist WH Squire, the Tchaikovsky reappears in this new transfer with an even earlier 78rpm set in which Squire and Hamilton Harty join Haydn Draper for Brahms’ Clarinet (or viola) Trio. This, so far as I know, has escaped reissuers until now.
The Tchaikovsky Trio was, like the Brahms, the first ever recording of this long work, caught electrically in 1926. Mark Obert-Thorn suspects that it was recorded in Wigmore Hall in London, so maybe he didn’t have the original discs at his disposal because his hunch is confirmed by the 78s themselves which note the location as the hall on the labels. Columbia had hit-and-miss results in the hall in early electric days and in this recording, which is a touch recessive, Squire is also rather backwardly recorded but no great harm is done. This hugely communicative performance is anchored by Murdoch, illuminated by Catterall’s pirouetting and precise elastic rhythm and endemic slides, and by Squire’s (by his standards) quite discreet use of portamenti. The sense of noble reserve is palpable, and the episodes are demarcated with some flair - the rich piano chording, the drone paragraphs, and the fugal incidents. The Historic Recording transfer is more unvarnished and less interventionist, but has an agreeably open top: Pristine’s is more balanced but has less room ambience.
The Brahms Trio shows the level of A&R imagination shown by English Columbia in late acoustic days and I assume the producer was Arthur Brooks. It’s the kind of repertoire that Compton Mackenzie’s nascent NGS label might well have picked up. Haydn Draper is less well-known than his uncle – and teacher – the eminent Charles Draper, who also recorded for the label, which may have caused some confusion. Despite the year of recording, the balance is well judged, Squire’s rich tone never over-parting Draper’s clarinet and Harty remaining focused in the aural perspective. The performance is imaginative and sensitive and the side-joins have been expertly managed. This recording reminds one that Squire never recorded the Brahms Sonatas, unlike his younger British contemporary Beatrice Harrison, who had the chance to record the E minor.
Four brief pieces round out the disc. The track listing refers simply to Hamilton Harty’s ‘Scherzo’ but this is actually the Op.8 Romance and Scherzo of which only the second part, a moto perpetuo of devilry and vitality, is played. Harty and Squire were great friends and made numerous recordings together and this work was doubtless informed by Squire’s appreciation of the virtuosic potboilers of his eminent predecessor, the cellistic titan David Popper. The Dvořák shows Squire in his portamenti-laden best late style, whilst organist GT Pattman accompanies Squire in Huré’s once familiar Air. The Australian pressing of the Dunkler – always get Australian pressings if you can – has impressive ambience and clarity. I assume that this is the finale of this label’s Squire discs, unless they are going to dig deeper into the acoustics, as his large-scale concerto and chamber 78s have now all made their appearance. If this is the last disc, it has matched the qualities of the previous ones. Squire was a significant figure in the history of the cello on record and the transfers, and care shown in these restorations, have done him proud.