It’s hard to overestimate this composers’ collective, the UK’s biggest, even harder to compress justice to five premieres. The Ireland Trio – Ellie Blackshaw (violin), Peter Copley (cello) Adam Swayne (piano) – struck and trilled their way through seven Piano Trios; six of the composers were present, two playing.
James Shenton’s Nightmusic is a Gershwin-minimalist-inspired study in rippling sweeps and chord sequences, a sourbet to Patrick Harrex’s masterly piano violin & cello. Harrex is the most established voice; acceleration starting off in stark Morton Feldman pings rise to a moto perpetuo, with exhilarating menaces.
Jonathan Clark’s attractive Three Short Pieces enfold two hymns (one’s called ‘Song’) hypnotically round a striding ‘Scherzo’. The last ‘Hymn’ evokes the spare opening to Britten’s Canticle II crossed with Part’s glassy-violin Fratres.
Peter Copley’s Piano Trio No. 2 is huge, so just the third movement, a fantastic passacaglia – variations on a bass turned backwards half-way here in a palindrome – was played. Spellbinding to the audience, Swayne’s emphatic pointing-up was raptly paused.
Guy Richardson’s knotty Trio boasts melodic drift sashayed between cluster harmonies and Swayne literally knocking on piano wood as Copley’s expressive cello melodies were taken up by Swayne; then a wash of Richardson impressionism. It shifts his profile.
Ellie Blackshaw’s Trio in F sharp happily isn’t as brief as she claims: serially-kerned, gestural, wistful, in ternary form it needs grasping twice – Blackshaw’s violin superb here.
John Ireland’s own 1938 Trio No. 3 in E washes impressionism with English modality through gamuts of moods, a yammering non-folk scherzo to wonderful drooping slow movement figures: the heart of this shifting work, it’s not obliterated by the finale echoing Ireland’s fine piano ‘Chelsea Reach’.
This is really Festival quality; many braved the ice for it.