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The Verdehr Trio
Bruch, Bassett, Hoag, Hoover

Max Bruch's
Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Op. 83 was written for Bruch's clarinetist son, Max Felix Bruch (1884-1943). Simrock published the work in 1910 shortly after its completion. The clarinet and viola parts were also arranged for violin and cello, as the publisher felt the customary piano trio combination would appeal to a wider audience. The pieces also work well for clarinet, violin, and piano, the combination heard here.

The presentation of only four of the eight pieces complies with the desire of the composer, who stated that he did not intend the work to be performed in its entirety at any one time. Heard here in order of performance are No. l, No. 5, No. 2, and No. 3. Each is a two- or three-part form with the thematic material skillfully dovetailed, shared, or alternated between the clarinet and violin, with the piano providing harmonic support. The use of a Romanian melody in the fifth piece is illustrative of Bruch's interest in folk resources, for in previous works he had set Scottish, Swedish, Hebrew, Russian, Welsh, and Celtic tunes. The composer's gift for lyricism is apparent and gratifying in all of the Opus 83 pieces, leaving Bruch's listeners wishing he had treated the genre of chamber music more generously. -Mary Craford

Leslie Bassett's Trio for violin, clarinet, and piano was commissioned by the Verdehr Trio and completed in 1980. The composer notes that in one respect it might almost be considered a duo, since the violin and clarinet usually act together with the piano as their opposing or supportive force.

"My Trio begins with a dramatic assertion of the note A, stated in rapidly-increasing units. The first of these is A by itself, followed by A plus one note, then A plus two notes, and so on up to A plus seven. This highly energetic and forceful opening ends comparatively soon--so soon, in fact, that the energy generated by it spills over into the fast and assertive second movement. Indeed, each movement picks up some aspect of the ending passage of its predecessor as its own point of departure. The first movement, for example, closes with the clarinet and violin playing two conspicuous intervals--F-A and E-B--the same pitches with which the second movement opens in the piano. The second movement, in turn, ends with F# and C# in the upper instruments, while the third begins with these same pitches in the piano. The third movement, which begins quietly and lyrically yet rises to a dramatic middle area, ends with D-flat and F, and the fourth begins with them. This movement is entirely placid, reflective and uncomplicated, ending with a conspicuous high A in the violin, the root of the violin-clarinet interval. The highly charged and energetic final movement opens with that same A, which was also the root and primary tonal level of the opening movement, the primal center. Several readily-identified elements are present in the work, including growth of phrase size, characteristic turns of phrase, and recurrent sonorities or gestures found in some form throughout." L.B.

Charles Hoag's Inventions on the Summer Solstice was written for the Verdehr Trio in 1979. It is an evocative work, enhanced by such effects as the spatial modulation of the violin in the second invention, and the addition of claves, maracas, wire brushes used inside the piano, and a toy cricket to augment the ensemble's timbral resources.

"Summer solstice is that time of year at which the sun has reached its northernmost declination. As such, it has been one of the great primordial dividing points of the year. The ancient Egyptians planted by it. The Norse built bonfires on the mountainsides to ward off evil spirits attendant to it. Shakespeare wove midsummer behavior throughout several of his plays. And, though the origin of Stonehenge is still a mystery, we do know that its giant megaliths form an exact calendar that measures the solsticial sunrises, solar and lunar eclipses and much more. It is all of these human manifestations of this ancient and mystical time that these inventions celebrate."

1. Pharaoh's Nile Rises at Solstice: Symbolic of the life-giving quality of the rising Nile, the piano is the giver of the musical material in this invention. Its series of slowly expanding symmetrical sonorities provide the pitch material for the violin and clarinet.

2. St. Johns Eve: Watchfires Roar Along the Fjords: Celebrants cavort close to the flames whose light protects them from evil spirits and 'unlaid ghosts' reputed to be abroad that night. A folk fiddler is heard at the perimeter.

3. Midsummer Sunrise at Stonehenge: A solar F# systematically emerges and journeys from unison to an octave. The pitch material of this journey is symmetrically organized, as is the rhythmic subdivision of the measures in the piano part.

4. This is Very Midsummer Madness (Shakespeare): A quote from Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor is subjected to midsummer madness.

5. The Murmurous Haunt of Flies on Summer's Eve (Keats): Unique and perhaps somewhat insect-like sounds are produced by the pianist striking and scraping the strings with wire brushes, the violinist playing artificial harmonics and the clarinetist playing only upon the upper half of the instrument.

6. The Inexorable Procession of the Sun to Summer Solstice: Once again, as in the third invention, the pitch F# journeys from a unison to an octave, double octave and beyond. The details of the journey are, however, completely recomposed." C.H.

Katherine Hoover's Images
"Written for the Verdehr Trio in 1981, Images has to do with the way various images--or themes--are changed in the process of thinking. The first movement is concerned with two very distinct ideas that eventually interact and affect each other. The second movement is a set of six variations on a somewhat somber colonial American hymn, God of My Justice. The third begins with similar themes which eventually agree to a separation. It also contains hints of It Ain't Necessarily So, which is finally quoted at the end." K.H.



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