On 1 December 1939, Ireland’s Phantasie Trio was performed in Dorking Halls. The performers were Margot MacGibbon, Peers Coetmore and Frederic Jackson, these three all students together at the RAM (MacGibbon and Jackson went on to marry). Jackson often accompanied Coetmore in duo recitals, and MacGibbon and Coetmore also played together in a string quartet. Vaughan Williams gave a lecture as part of this event, one of a series of early war-time concert lectures in Dorking. The other works performed were piano trios by Mozart and Beethoven. Ireland himself was not present, living at that time on Guernsey.
In June 1939, not long after the first performance of Ireland’s Third Piano Trio, the Grinke Trio in its new lineup with Kendall Taylor as pianist went on tour to Holland, taking this new piece with them, on their return performing it at the Old Assembly Rooms in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in the Wigmore Hall. Forsyth, a close friend of Ireland, wrote a jolly review of the piece, with its ‘effective abruptness’ to close the Scherzo and lovely cello writing in the slow movement. The group had already recorded the Phantasie-Trio in November 1938, with Hooton playing ‘The Holy Boy’. This recording was very well received, as one of the reviews (left) might suggest. And in 1939 they went on to record the Third Piano Trio too, also for Decca.
Sometime after 1930 the Grinke Trio (Grinke-Hooton-Manley) took Ireland’s Phantasie-Trio to the Midlands, performing it in a lunchtime concert at Queen’s College, Birmingham (top, no longer standing).
The reviewer liked their performance enormously, finding that ‘rarely, indeed, has the impresson of comprehension of the British composer’s line of thought been so convincingly conveyed’ (newspaper cutting, no provenance or date). Further outings for the Grinke Trio and the Phantasie-Trio saw it played in Dundee’s Training College Hall (below) alongside Schubert and Brahms and in the marvellously-named Wilfred Lawson Temperance Hotel in Woodford Green (bottom).
The Village Hall in Heston in the Borough of Hounslow (this village coincidentally the birthplace of E.J. Moeran) was the setting for an illustrated talk on his music given by Ireland himself. It is fascinating to see what Ireland chose for his talk. He began by introducing the Phantasie-Trio, using the Grinke Trio recording. Following this introduction he played the piano, selecting ‘April’, ‘The Island Spell’ and ‘Ragamuffin’ after a ‘fascinating description of the events and places that supplied the ideas and themes from which the works developed’. The final part of the first half of the talk concluded with excerpts from Grinke’s recording of the First Violin Sonata.
Refreshments followed and the second half resumed with a focus now on orchestral music, featuring Eileen Joyce’s recording of the Piano Concerto with the Hallé. Ireland explained the work’s construction at the piano. The last item of the evening was A London Overture, chosen as an example of the seed from which a composition may grow, with the write-up concluding: ‘Not a small part of the success of this meeting was due to the charm and gracious personality of Dr. Ireland’.
Although the newspaper report that supplies this information and provides the title of this blog post is not identified or dated, existing only as a cutting in a scrapbook, Ireland’s talk can be pinned down as taking place at least after 1940, as that is when Joyce recorded the Concerto. Most likely it was during the early 1940s, before Satyricon and the Fantasy-Sonata, as it would have made sense for Ireland to have included these works otherwise. So a guess is around 1941.
The Grinke Trio (Frederick Grinke, Florence Hooton and Dorothy Manley, with Kendall Taylor taking over as pianist after 1938) gave many performances of Ireland’s music, particularly the first two piano trios. On one occasion they took with them to Darlington the Phantasie-Trio, performing it in Polam Hall (seen above) alongside works by Beethoven, Schumann and Rachmaninov. A long review of this concert described Manley as producing ‘superb quality of tone’, loving her ‘gossamer-like’ pianissimo touch, while Hooton had the ‘tone quality and emotional power of the true virtuoso’. Grinke himself made an excellent leader, with ‘perfect control over every form of violin technique’ (newspaper cutting, no date). A few days later, the group performed Ireland’s Second Trio in Farnham, under the auspices of the Bourne Music Club.
- River Skerne looking into Polam Hall grounds © Mark Harrington and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.
- Florence Hooton by Wilfrid Gabriel de Glehn, 1936, Royal Academy of Music.
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:
On this day in 1932 Ireland was north of the border, giving a recital in the Stevenson Hall, Glasgow. The concert opened with the Phantasie Trio, Ireland joined by Betty Spence (violin) and Luigi Gasparini (cello) (he a regular soloist in Glasgow). The concert also included sonatas for both of those instruments: the Cello Sonata and the Second Violin Sonata. Other items in the programme were ‘The island spell’ and a number of songs featuring Scottish baritone James Reid. Ireland himself ‘was warmly applauded for his renderings at the piano’ (Scotsman, 13 April 1932, p.9).