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English Piano Trios
Rosalind ELLICOTT (1857-1924)
Piano Trio No. 1 in G (1889)
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912)
Trio in E minor for piano, violin and cello (1893)
Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)
Celtic Prelude: The Land of Heart’s Desire (1921)
James Cliffe FORRESTER (1860-1940)
Trio: Folk Song Phantasy (1917)
Henry Waldo WARNER (1874-1945)
Trio for piano, violin and cello, Op. 22 (1921)
Trio Anima Mundi (Kenji Fujimura (piano), Rochelle Ughetti (violin), Noella Yan (cello))
rec. 2017, Music Auditorium, Clayton, Australia
DIVINE ART DDA 25158 [75:35]

This welcome new album from Trio Anima Mundi features piano trios from five English composers. The best known, Coleridge-Taylor, gained widespread fame for his cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, while Rutland Boughton had significant success with his opera The Immortal Hour. Incidentally, both were students of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music in London. Probably the greatest appeal of this album is the works from the other three composers who are much lesser known, namely Rosalind Ellicott, James Cliffe Forrester and Harry Waldo Warner. According to Trio Anima Mundi, all five works are world premiere recordings.

Cambridge born Ellicott, who is a new name to me, studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music and was an accomplished singer. Later Ellicott became a composition student of Thomas Wingham and went on to achieve some success with her Dramatic Overture in 1886 and the lyrical cantata Elysium in 1889. Here Ellicott is represented by her three movement Piano Trio No. 1 from 1889. Substantial at just under half-an-hour, this attractive and elegant work is beautifully crafted and full of interest. Especially enjoyable is the slow middle movement Adagio, imbued with a gentle yearning and containing a central Poco andante section of a more serious character, described in the notes as ‘funereal’. Whilst listening to Ellicott’s score I was at times reminded of the engagingly Romantic tendencies of Mendelsohn and Schumann with works from a generation or two earlier.

Coleridge-Taylor was born in London to a Sierra Leone doctor and an English mother. When aged fifteen Coleridge-Taylor was admitted to the Royal College of Music. From his late teens, Coleridge-Taylor’s Trio in E minor for piano, violin and cello from 1893 is contemporaneous with his first published work, the noted Piano Quintet. In three movements, at just under nine minutes this is a very short work, but it certainly makes an impact. Stormy with steely determination, the opening movement is followed by the upbeat and vivacious Scherzo while the Finale, marked Allegro con furiant, just sparkles with life.

Buckinghamshire born Boughton was in his mid-forties when he found success with The Immortal Hour. Shortly before his landmark work found fame, Boughton in 1921 wrote his Celtic Prelude: The Land of Heart’s Desire. A product of his interest in the so-called ‘Celtic Twilight’ movement, this atmospheric work with its marked folk song influence displays ‘a number of themes in contrasting moods and keys’.

Another new name to me, James Cliffe Forrester was sixteen when he entered the National Training School (the forerunner of the Royal College of Music). Forrester won the 1917 Cobbett Competition for a Folksong Phantasy (in the trio category) with his Folk Song Phantasy, which W. W. Cobbett described as ‘a musicianly work of melodious charm.’ In three continuous sections, this trio of considerable appeal takes thirteen minutes here to perform and contains traditional Sussex folk tunes, namely Rosebud in June and Twankydillo.

H. Waldo Warner studied at the Guildhall School of Music, becoming viola professor there. A founder member and violist of the London String Quartet, Warner remained with this group for over twenty years. Warner composed four Phantasies for the Cobbett competitions and had considerable success, obtaining fifth prize in 1905 for his Quartet: Phantasy in F Major and first prize in 1917 with his Quartet: Folksong Phantasy in G minor. There was an early Piano Trio unplaced in the 1907 Cobbett competition but the later Piano Trio, Op. 22, which is played here, was awarded $1000 for winning the fourth Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge prize in the USA in 1921, chosen out of sixty-four works it seems. Taking almost twenty-minutes to perform, the three movement Piano Trio holds my attention from the first bar to the last. In the opening movement Quasi fantasia it’s interesting how the main theme of a sentimental yet straightforward quality returns in various guises - one has a particularly distinctive Eastern flavour and another a rather bucolic character. At just over four minutes, the short Scherzo features ebullient writing flanking a calmer more romantic central section. With such exciting playing, full of energy, the memorable Finale is contrasted with passages of yearning romanticism.

Throughout this fascinating and engaging recital programme, I can’t fault the playing of the Trio Anima Mundi who impress with their directness and level of expression, so consistent in teamwork. Beautifully recorded at the Music Auditorium, Clayton, Victoria, the sound is clear and well-balanced. The booklet essay provides most of the necessary information although there are a couple of irritating mistakes in the liner notes.

This delightful album of English Piano Trios is certainly worth obtaining and for H. Waldo Warner’s Piano Trio alone.

Michael Cookson
Previous review: John France (Recording of the Month) ~ Jonathan Woolf

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