Bax: Clarinet Sonatas; Piano Trio

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Clarinet Sonatas; Piano Trio
PERFORMER: Robert Plane (clarinet); Gould Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557698
This enterprising disc begins


with Bax’s last chamber work, the

Piano Trio from 1946, a distinctly

purposeful piece with a finale in 5/8

time. It works backwards through

the rhapsodic 1934 Clarinet Sonata

in D to an unexpectedly passionate

Folk-Tale for cello and piano of 1918.

Then come two pieces apparently

constituting a rather lop-sided

Clarinet Sonata written in 1901

when Bax was still digesting the

influences of Brahms and Dvoπák.

And finally there’s his first published

chamber work, a Trio from 1906

for piano, violin and viola (replaced

on this disc by clarinet), which

in a convincing single-movement

structure mixes characteristic Bax

melodies with less typical touches

such as a fugal start to the coda.

The performances are excellent:

Lucy Gould leads the Trios in fine

style, Alice Neary is richly expressive

in the Folk-Tale, Benjamin Frith

works wonders with Bax’s alarmingly

note-laden piano parts, and Robert

Plane is responsive to the shifting

moods of the mature Sonata. There

are some preferable rival recordings

of this: on Hyperion, in a more richly

coloured Bax programme by the Nash

Ensemble, Michael Collins and Ian

Brown use rubato to subtly idiomatic

effect; while, on a Chandos disc

chiefly devoted to the Bliss Clarinet

Quintet, Janet Hilton deploys more

ingratiating tone and, with Keith

Swallow, takes a less languishing view of the first movement. But the

Naxos, decently recorded apart from

some rather cramped piano sound,

has not only the price advantage but

also a programme to intrigue all Bax


enthusiasts. Anthony Burton.