CLARION3 – clarinet, bassoon & piano

Wednesday 16th March 2011

Beethoven – Trio Op.38 – First movement

Britten – Three Character Pieces [piano solo]

Hurlstone – Trio

Bernstein – Clarinet Sonata

Saint-Saens – Bassoon Sonata Op.168

Glinka – Trio Pathetique in D Minor

Janet HILTON (clarinet) has been praised for “the rapt eloquence of her phrasing, shaped with the quiet freedom of a great singer.” [FINANCIAL TIMES]. Laurence PERKINS has performed and recorded much of the bassoon’s solo repertoire - “the virtuoso moments are dazzling” [BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE]. Pianist Sarah Beth BRIGGS, “an artist of extraordinary magnetism” [DAILY TELEGRAPH], gained international recognition when she became joint winner of the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg. As well as the dramatic trio by Glinka they will play the trio by William Hurlstone (b.1876 – d.1906). Described on occasion as the “English Brahms” many believe that Hurlstone could have been a truly great composer has he not died so young. He writes beautifully for all three instruments and the piano part is virtuoso indeed. The Beethoven trio is from the composer’s own extraordinary arrangement of his op. 20 septet.


A Musical Mystery Tour at the Ilkley Concert Club

That Victoria Soames Samek deputized for the indisposed clarinettist Janet Hilton entailed no change in the published programme whose contents, although known to woodwind players are not regular repertoire items. So an interesting evening of musical exploration was guaranteed.

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The first movement of Beethoven’s skilful arrangement for clarinet, bassoon and piano of his Septet made an agreeable overture for the concert. It was interesting to hear familiar music in a new guise, but the piano lid fully open sometimes led to the instrument’s over-dominance. Then followed Britten’s Three Character Pieces. Sarah Beth Briggs, who premiered these recently discovered solo piano rarities, spoke to us about them and her playing proved fully up to their virtuosic demands. The piano lid was then lowered with noticeable improvement in balance for William Hurlstone’s Trio. It is heavily influenced by Brahms with some characteristic writing for his beloved clarinet but also with many lyrical opportunities for the bassoon and a typically full-textured piano part. The music was never played during the composer’s lifetime and if there is a heaven he’s there, and surely grateful for Clarion 3’s convincing advocacy.

The Bernstein Clarinet Sonata is an early work. After a busy Hindemith-style work out the first movement’s wistful coda was beautifully played by the clarinettist. The second movement is more recognizably ‘Lenny’ in character and the players seized on both its jazzy qualities and haunting lyricism of the more reflective passages. Then came the Saint-Saëns Bassoon Sonata of 1921 which seems to belong to an earlier era. Nevertheless its agreeable discourse allowed Lawrence Perkins ample scope for both the legato playing and deft rapid figuration that were expertly displayed. The trio then reconvened for the idiosyncratic Glinka Trio Pathetique. The players responded well to its often operatic inspiration, the slow movement almost an Italian love duet played con amore by clarinet and bassoon. Here and throughout the concert the pianist was a tower of strength driving the mystery tour bus.


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Recommended Recordings



An enterprising Naxos budget CD (8.553389) has the complete Op.38 Clarinet Trio coupled with one by Ferdinand Ries. The artists are Jurgen Demmler (clarinet), Markus Tillier (cello) with Peter

Grabinger (piano). The recording quality is very good.

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It was difficult to find a modem recording, but Sarah Beth Briggs on Semaphore SML MP21 (full price) gives an excellent performance and is well recorded. The couplings are Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata, Rawsthome’s Bagatelles and Brahms’s Handel Variations.


The work is well recorded on Clarinet Classics CCO023 (full price), the artists being Victoria Soames (clarinet), Laurence Perkins (bassoon) and John Flinders (piano). The couplings are pieces by Howells and Lloyd with another work by Hurlstone.


A very pleasant Naxos budget disc (8.572240) has the Clarinet Sonata performed by Emma Johnson (clarinet) and John Lenehan (piano). The couplings are works by Sir John Dankworth and Aaron Copland, and the recording quality is excellent.


This work appears in a charming 2 disc set of Woodwind Chamber Music by Debussy and Saint-Saens, on Cala CACD1017 (2 CDs for the price of 1 full price). The artists in the Bassoon Sonata are Rachel Gough (bassoon) and Julius Drake (piano).


The London Conchord Ensemble give a very satisfactory performance on Orchid Classics ORC 100009 (full price). Recording quality is very good, and the couplings are works by Balakirev, Shostakovich and Glazunov.

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