I have known Susan Milan for about fifteen years, from the time I interviewed her at the Royal College of Music where she teaches and runs a course of masterclasses. In her earlier years she was principal flautist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the late Rudolf Kempe, where she excelled. Since then she has been responsible for forming various chamber groups where she performs at different venues, and I always enjoy these events, most often at St Johns’ Church, Smiths Square. She comes from a distinguished line of performers of which I well remember Gareth Morris, Geoffrey Gilbert and William Bennett.
The music on this CD is finely contrasted: Arnold Bax’s Elegiac Trio possesses a typically Irish tonal setting — although he was London born — and in its musical makeup has the strains o f Donegal, where Bax settled, using the pseudonym of Dermot O’Byrne in his published writings and poetry. His mentor was William Butler Yeats. Like his brother Clifford, Arnold was a born painter of images that reflect the land of his adoption, and the music is ideally coloured by the mysterious undercurrents that stimulated the imagination.
Debussy’s Sonate en Trio is divided into three movements — Pastorale, Interlude-mouvement de Menuetto and Anime — and is not dissimilar. Indeed, one could easily mistake its derivation as the last of three final sonatas he wrote at the end of his life. Here the oboe part is replaced by Matthew Jones’ viola to give warmth to the irridescent colourings.
Ravel’s Sonatine en Trio is an arrangement by that doyen of harpists, Carlos Salzedo. The original was a test piece set for students to play at The Paris Conservatoire. The flow of pieces so far is natural and spontaneous, and seizes on the imagination.
I believe I was the last journalist to interview the late Welsh composer William Mathias (1934-1992). He had been suffering from cancer for some time. At the invitation of his daughter Rhiannan, I journeyed to the Menai Straits in North Wales and did a very successful interview just a week before his demise, afterwards writing an obituary for The Daily Telegraph . Three contrasting sections make up The Zodiac Trio, Op 70: Pisces ( Allegro vivo ), Aries ( Andante ) and Taurus ( Allegro alla danza ), and they are typical of this late, lamented genius of a composer.
Lastly, Theodore Dubois’ Terzettino — a single Moderato lasting just five and a half minutes provides a fitting conclusion to this beautifully balanced CD.