WORKS: Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano (ed. Fox); Fantasy Sonata; The Holy Boy; Sextet for Clarinet, Horn and String Quartet
PERFORMER: Robert Plane (clarinet), David Pyatt (horn), Alice Neary (cello), Sophia Rahman (piano); Maggini Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570550
John Ireland’s robust, genial Sextet is an early work (1898) reflecting the Brahmsian style he imbibed from his teacher Stanford. Never played in public until 1960, it has only (as far as I know) been recorded once before, yet displays plenty of sap and vigour.
Ireland never really threw off the Brahmsian legacy, nor needed to, and the Fantasy Sonata written 45 years later is one of his most impressive and personal works, and a worthy successor to the two Brahms clarinet sonatas.
Robert Plane and Sophia Rahman give it a livelier, less innately nostalgic performance than some of their distinguished rivals, discovering melancholic defiance beneath its lyrical and playful exterior.
The real novelty here is the Clarinet Trio (1912-13) which Ireland withdrew after its first performances, recomposing it first with violin instead of clarinet but then making a more radical revision of some parts he incorporated into his Piano Trio No. 3 of 1928.
The original manuscript is incomplete, and the whole slow movement has disappeared, but the work has been reconstructed by the Canadian clarinettist Stephen Fox, using the slow introduction to the finale that only appears in the abandoned interim piano trio version to provide some slow music.
Why Ireland suppressed the piece is unclear but it’s a mature, striking and characteristic piece and I vastly prefer the scherzo in this version than its later incarnation in Trio No. 3. A valuable, intriguing disc. Calum MacDonald