Gramophone

As Axel Klein’s introductory note suggests, Irish new music is a significant yet relatively unknown facet of the European scene which is only now coming into its own. Among its most vital practitioners, Rhona Clarke (b1958) is a Dubliner whose output takes in most genres (excluding opera but including electro-acoustic); the piano trio prominent among her chamber works. Of those featured here, the Second Trio (2001) comprises an Intermezzo and Scherzo whose overall equanimity is offset by a motivic clarity no less apparent in the Third Trio (2002) – again in two movements and moving between suavity and vitality such that a latent anxiety comes to the fore without undermining the music’s overall composure.

Most substantial of these pieces is the Fourth Trio (2016), the Different Game of its subtitle indicating the interplay between minimalist and jazz elements that motivates the disjunction of the initial Moderato and sardonic waltz stylings of its successor. There follows a brief though unruffled Largo, then a finale that brings the energetic elements heard earlier to a head as the work reaches its decisive close and so confirms this trio as a major addition to the medium.

This latter piece was written for the Fidelio Trio, whose expertise is second to none among present-day ensembles. The programme works well as a sequence too – the trios separated by the heady evocation of Gleann Dá Loch (1995) and the sombre choral underlay of Con coro (2011), then rounded off by the tranquillity of In umbra (2000). Immediate sound, a little too forward in more demonstrative passages, and a disc that does Clarke’s profile no harm at all.

—Richard Whitehouse