Monday, 13 July 2009

John Ireland and James Friskin: Phantasie Trios

As part of my preparation for a recent review of John Ireland’s chamber music, I came across this review in the May 1909 copy of the Musical Times. There are many versions of the Phantasie Trio by John Ireland currently in the catalogues. My review was of the Naxos release played by the Gould Trio. However, a convenient edition is the BMS Society CD BMS418. This may be difficult to purchase, but is well worth the effort in tracking down a second-hand copy. It includes music by Bridge & Moeran.

THE LONDON TRIO AND BRITISH PHANTASIES. Since the demise of the Monday and Saturday Popular Concerts, London amateurs of chamber music have to rely upon local organisations for the public performance of concerted music, and amongst them the London Trio is one of those most firmly established in artistic favour. Madame Amina Goodwin, Signor Simonetti and Mr. Whitehouse have now played together for many years, and as all of them are excellent artists a perfect ensemble is the result. But not content with the adequate performance of the great masterpieces written for the pianoforte and two stringed instruments, they have this season had the enterprise to undertake the performance of the three so-called Phantasie trios, prize compositions in the 'Cobbett' com-petition of the Worshipful Society of Musicians. At their latest concert, given at Aeolian Hall on January 26, the London Trio performed the Phantasie composed by Mr. John Ireland, a pupil of Sir Charles V. Stanford, to whom it is dedicated.
The work is characterised by extreme brilliancy and strenuousness, and is rich in musician-ship. Although in one continuous movement, it has four well-defined sections corresponding with those of an extended sonata movement, marked as follows: (I) In tempo moderato (statement of principal and subsidiary themes); (2) Meno mosso quasi andantino (middle section); (3) Tempo primo (recapitulation); (4) Vivace e giocoso- -vivacissimo (Coda). At the conclusion of the performance the composer was twice recalled, and considering that the programme included Brahms's monumental Trio in B (new edition), it was a triumph for British chamber music.
At the concert given by the London Trio at Aeolian Hall on November 24-inadvertently omitted to be noticed in these columns-there was produced a prize Phantasie by Mr. James Friskin. Laid out in five sections, the Phantasie opens with a passage in E minor for the violoncello, conceived in a vein of melancholy to which the violin responds in similar mood. This initial figure dominates a work which, even in the Allegro molto in B minor which follows, retains a dirge-like character, tinged by the Highland sentiment which is a characteristic of Mr. Friskin's compositions. The next section, an Adagio in E major, is of considerable beauty, followed by a resumption of the Allegro molto in A minor. Later on the strings are muted, and, after some modulations, the work concludes with a remarkable Coda, the last bars of which consist of a chord in E minor sustained by the violin for several bars until the violoncello arrives with a pizzicato chord and brings down the curtain upon this little drama. For a Phantasie, in the full acceptance of the term, the work is, we think, too sombre, but it will prove attractive to lovers of the reflective in music.

The Musical Times 1 March 1909 pp 178-179

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