In 1908 Ireland’s Phantasie-Trio came second in that year’s Cobbett Competition for piano trios, with Bridge winning first prize. What is often overlooked is that Ireland was in fact joint second with James Friskin, the two men each winning £10. The Musical Times (1 June 1908, p. 397) even places Friskin above Ireland.
Born in Glasgow, Friskin (1886–1967) was a few years younger than Ireland, but like him studied with Stanford at the RCM. His music is worth much further exploration, yet remains largely unknown. This may be because he chose a somewhat unusual career route for a British composer, teaching at the Royal Normal College for the Blind from 1909 to 1914, then emigrating to the USA. There he taught at the Julliard School and turned his attentions to making editions of the music of J.S. Bach. In 1944 he married composer and violist Rebecca Clarke. In his early days as a musician in London he subscribed to the Cobbett ideal several times, producing Phantasies for string quartet, piano trio and piano quintet (piano and string quartet). Sadly, his chamber music output was largely confined to the period before he left for the US. As outlined in the article left (Musical Times, 1 March 1909, p. 179), Friskin’s E-minor Phantasie follows the rules of the Cobbett Competition in its sectionalised single-movement form. While it doesn’t have the glorious ending of Ireland’s Phantasie-Trio, it has many lovely, lyrical moments, such as this one:
A new edition has recently been prepared by Edition Silvertrust, with sound bites of Friskin’s work available here: