Customer Review

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4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a spin, 15 April 2012
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This review is from: James Friskin - Piano Quintet in C minor, Phantasie for String Quartet, Elegy for Viola and Piano, Phantasy Piano Quintet (Audio CD)
After 40 odd years of listening to live and recorded music life doesn't present me with that many discoveries...but fortunately they do still come along, and much of this present disc would fall into that category.

Most striking was the main work, occupying about half the playing time of the disc, the Piano Quintet of 1907. Although the name James Friskin rang vague bells in my mind I deliberately avoided reading the programme notes before listening to this CD. Very soon I thought I detected a Scottish, or at least Celtic feel, and then sounds of Stanford seemed to drift into view. ....not without justification it turned out, as Friskin appears to have been one of the RCM directors's favourite pupils. Stanford even kept a photograph of Friskin hanging in his room at the Academy, one which is reproduced in the CD booklet.

After a passionate opening movement there is the most overtly "Celtic" movement, a delightful scherzo, which includes a quote from a Scottish song at one point - an intrusion which Stanford found "scandalous" ...perhaps because it had rude words attached ! There is also a rich vein of melody tapped throughout the piece, especially in the gorgeous slow movement, before the finale bursts in "allegro con fuoco" (with fire). The viola plays a particularly significant role in the entire quintet, not least because it was Friskin's instrument of study.

It was later listening to the Viola Elegy that I twigged why the name Friskin was buried in my memory. It seems it was written to mark his love for a fellow viola player, one Rebecca Clarke.It features a lot of writing in the instrument's upper register, much more "silvery" in tone than perhaps one is used to, and providing some intonation hurdles for the player, which the experienced Christopher Wellington negotiates with aplomb.

Clarke, incidentally another greatly under-valued composer, became Mrs Friskin in September 1944. Shortly after the War the couple left the UK and moved to America, Friskin dying in New York in 1967. Rebecca, who was annoyingly addressed from time to time as "Mrs Frisk" by the doorman to their Manhattan apartment, survived him and went on to live to the ripe old age of 93. Her output, by the way, includes a magnificent viola sonata which readers should seek out without delay !

Back to the disc in hand ....I enjoyed too the Cobbett inspired Phantasy for Piano Quintet, although perhaps the string quartet work outstayed its welcome just a little....despite the welcome advocacy of the Rasumovsky Quartet and Catherine Dubois.

Well done to them, and Nimbus, for making this repertoire available to the general public. Despite my slight qualms about the quartet I don't think you'll be disappointed if you give this one a spin.
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