Phantasie in a minor for Piano Trio
John Ireland (1879-1962) was born in the English village of Bowdon near the city of Manchester. After studying at the Royal College of Music in London with Charles Villiers Stanford, he pursued a career as a composer and teacher eventually obtaining a position at the College. Among his students were Ernest Moeran and Benjamin Britten. Primarily a composer of songs, during the early part of his career, Ireland did write chamber music and won the first prize in the 1908 Cobbett Competition for chamber music with his First Violin Sonata.
His Phantasie for Piano Trio in a minor dates from 1906 and was composed for an earlier Cobbett Competition. The Cobbett Competitions were designed to encourage the younger generation of British composers to write chamber music. Its founder and benefactor was the chamber music aficionado William Wilson Cobbett. The rules of the competition provided an alternate format, the old English Fancy for Fantasia from the time of Purcell, to the traditional four movement work which had developed from Haydn onwards. There was to be only a single movement of around 15 minutes duration embracing a variety of moods, tone colors and tempi while at the same time retaining an inner unity.
Irelandís Phantasie for Piano Trio, in keeping with the rules of the competition, is in one movement but has three sections. The trio begins in dramatic and full of passion, but there are also reflective and brooding interludes characterized by chromaticism as well as beautifully melodic and jovial episodes.