The four piano trios in this disc have the courage of their convictions. Whilst it’s the trio of Seóirse Bodley, the senior of the composers, that bears the title Dancing in Daylight , all four are avowedly trios and none hides behind a so-often modishly lower case name. The quartet of trios also shares a compactness of structure and delineation into conventional movements, whether two movements in the case of Rhona’s Clarke’s work or three, in the case of the remainder ones.
Clarke’s Trio was in fact the first to be written, in 2001, though she revised it in 2015. Clarke’s métier, if I can invoke the name of the record label for a moment, is for pared-down gestures. She’s a craftswoman who works her wood down to the fraction of an inch. These accumulations of precise, spare gestures – especially over a chordal piano ostinato – give the work a very personalised sound world, though matters are more loquacious in the Bartókian second movement, where some folkloric, fugal wit provides a striking contrast to the opening movement. Fergus Johnston’s Trio was composed in 2011 for the trio that performs it here, the Fidelio. Johnston bases material on a four-note motif but the contrasts he generates between his three movements are quite dramatic. The first is full of indefinite direction, the second features rolling Boogie patterns and saucy skittering strings and segues into an unexpected Tango. The gruff interjection of the cello temporarily brings jollity to a halt. The finale is deeply threnodic and the expressive heart of the work.
John Buckley’s Trio was again composed for the Fidelio, who premiered it in 2013. The elusive first movement takes as its image the zoetrope, a flickering device that suits the sense of fugitive colour that leads to dissolving textures. The witty and transformative second movement, called Kaleidoscope, embodies similar ideas whilst the Music Box finale seems to reference those old pianistic showpieces of old, by such as Liadov, whilst also plumbing more sinuous depths. Finally, Bodley’s 2014 Trio, dedicated to fellow-composer Buckley, offers a fresh, open air feel, ardently warm. The plangent introduction of Irish folk fiddling in the finale, made the more so by the use of violinist Darragh Morgan’s own ornamentation – he used to play traditional Irish music – makes explicit what had been barely suggested before.
Each of the composers has written a brief note about their trio. Well recorded, it seems superfluous to add that the performances are wholly sympathetic to the four composers’ idioms.