April 30, 2017 Sunday @ 3pm
Claremont Trio

IMAGES FROM THE PERFORMANCE...


Emily Bruskin, violin
Julia Bruskin, cello
Andrea Lam, piano


Lauded as “one of America’s finest young chamber groups” Strad Magazine, the Claremont Trio is sought after for its thrillingly virtuosic and richly communicative performances. First winners of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award and the only piano trio ever to win the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the Claremonts are consistently lauded for their "aesthetic maturity, interpretive depth, and exuberance" (Palm Beach Daily News).

During the 2016-17 season, the Claremont Trio performs Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto with the Wichita Symphony and the Ridgewood Symphony and gives recitals at New York’s Merkin Hall and Brooklyn Public Library, Westchester’s Emelin Theatre and Chapel Series, and Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, Broward College, and Concerts at the Point (MA). They will perform as part of the Suzuki Alumni Project, do a visiting residency at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and make their Canadian debut at the Orford Music Festival (Quebec).

American Modern Recordings will release the Claremont Trio’s newest recording of Robert Paterson’s works, including Claremont Trio commission “Moon Trio”, in December of 2016. Gramophone magazine praised the Trio’s “poetry and… thrilling virtuosity” in their Beethoven “Triple” Concerto with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, recently released on Bridge Records. Of their Beethoven & Ravel CD, one reviewer raved “These are some of the most impassioned, moving, and notable readings of these favorites that I have ever heard, bar none.” (Audiophile Audition). Their discography also includes Mendelssohn Trios, Shostakovich and Arensky Trios, and American Trios with works by Leon Kirchner, Ellen Zwilich, Paul Schoenfield, and Mason Bates. A collaborative disc with clarinetist Jonathan Cohler garnered a glowing review in Fanfare magazine and received a Critic’s CHOICE award from BBC Magazine.

The Claremont Trio’s recent seasons included engagements at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Boston’s Celebrity Series, Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess Series, Pasadena’s Coleman Chamber Music Association, Johns Hopkins University, the Austin Chamber Music Festival, Stanford Lively Arts, Kansas City Friends of Chamber Music, along with the Chamber Music Societies of Phoenix, Dallas, Sedona, San Antonio, Buffalo, and the Universities of Washington, Wisconsin, and Missouri. They have performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto with orchestras such as the Nashville Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Pacific Symphony, and Utah Symphony. They also appear regularly at festivals including Ravinia, Saratoga, Mostly Mozart, Caramoor, Rockport, Bard, and Norfolk.

The Claremont Trio has commissioned new trios by Nico Muhly, Gabriela Lena Frank, Mason Bates, Sean Shepherd, Helen Grime, Donald Crockett, Robert Paterson, Paul Chihara, Sharon Farber, Howard Frazin, Daniel Kellogg, and Hillary Zipper. They have conducted master classes at the Columbia University, Eastman School of Music, Duke University, Peabody Conservatory’s Preparatory Division, and the Boston Conservatory.

The Claremont Trio was formed in 1999 at the Juilliard School. Twin sisters Emily Bruskin (violin) and Julia Bruskin (cello) grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and they both play old French instruments. Emily's violin is a Lupot from 1795; Julia's cello is a J.B. Vuillaume from 1849. Andrea Lam (piano) grew up in Sydney, Australia. The Claremonts are all now based in New York City near their namesake: Claremont Avenue.

For more information about the Claremont Trio, please visit www.claremonttrio.com.


PROGRAM NOTES

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), Piano Trio No. 1 in c minor, Op. 8 (1923)

Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884), Piano Trio in g minor, Op. 15 (1855)
             I. Moderato assai - Più animato
             II. Allegro, ma non agitato
             III. Finale. Presto

INTERMISSION

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Piano Trio in B-flat Major Op. 97 (“Archduke”, 1811)
                I. Allegro moderato
                II. Scherzo. Allegro
                III. Andante cantabile ma però con moto (D major)
            IV. Allegro moderato

The term “piano trio” is shorthand for a work for piano, violin, and cello, usually in the four movement format of a string quartet. Works for piano and two instruments other than violin and cello are usually described by explicitly listing all three instruments, eg Brahms’ trio for piano, clarinet, and cello. Although the piano trio literature is not as extensive as that of the string quartet, most major composers wrote at least one and some wrote a number (eg Haydn with 40-plus, and Mozart and Beethoven with six each). The piano trio, like the string quartet, evolved from works in which a single instrument predominated (the piano in the case of the trio; the first violin in the case of the string quartet) to works where the instruments are treated more or less equally.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Trio #1 dates from his teenage years, and while there are hints of what was to become Shostakovich’s mature style, this is clearly the work of a talented student in search of a voice. It consists of a single movement, roughly in ABABA form. The A sections comprise an imaginative series of episodes based on a descending three note motive, using harmonic language typical of the post-Romantic period. The B sections are lyrical, almost completely diatonic, and skate perilously close to what a mature Shostakovich might have regarded as cocktail lounge music. Despite its stylistic eclecticism, it is a pleasant and highly listenable work, and an interesting peek at a “composer in progress.” The work comes to us incomplete, either because Shostakovich never finished it, or because part of the score was lost. The last 16 bars of the work were written by one of his pupils, and offer a juxtaposition of the two sections that is almost a parody, though it probably wasn’t intended that way.

Bedřich Smetana, along with Liszt (Hungary), Grieg (Norway), Chopin (Poland), and Dvořák (like Smetana also Czech), were members of a group of “nationalistic” composers that emerged in the mid 1800’s. Viewed by Czechs as the founder of the Czech musical idiom and as the virtual inventor of Czech opera, Smetana’s reputation internationally is based on only a handful of works: the opera The Bartered Bride, the tone poem cycle Ma vlast (My Country), and the string quartet in e minor (“From My Life”). The Piano Trio in g minor, composed following the death of his first daughter, has a distinctly Eastern European sound but a solidly Austro-German structure – something not uncommon among the composers attempting to establish national musical styles during this period. While this group produced some exceedingly fine music and succeeded in imparting national accents to pre-existing musical forms, they failed in their larger scale works to develop new and uniquely national musical structures or techniques. The German dominance of musical form was to continue well into the 20th century.

The first movement of the trio is in traditional sonata form, and uses traditional development techniques including deconstruction (developing fragments of musical material), counterpoint, and harmonic tension. The second movement is in ABACA form. The whirlwind “A” section has a strong local flavor and the leisurely “B” part a delightfully Viennese schmaltzy sound. The “C” section – as close as this trio gets to a slow movement – alternates between a majestic dirge and passages of sad reflection. The finale is in ABABA form, with another whirlwind dance in the “A” section. The “B” section borrows from the “C” section of the preceding movement, making just enough changes to turn a dirge into an expression of redemption and joy. A highly condensed return to the “A” section brings the work to a close.

Beethoven published six works composed originally for piano trio – Op 1, a set of three; Op 70, a set of two, the first of which is known as “Ghost”; and Op 97, the so-called “Archduke”. “Archduke” was Rudolph Johann Joseph Rainier, Archduke of Austria and Cardinal and Archbishop of Olomouc, one of Beethoven’s major patrons and a skilled amateur pianist and competent composer (he was in fact the only composition student Beethoven ever had). In addition to the B-flat Piano Trio Op 97, Rudolph received the dedication of no less than thirteen of Beethoven’s other works, including the fourth and fifth piano concertos, the Hammerklavier and Les Adieux piano sonatas, the last violin sonata, the Grosse Fuge, and the Missa Solemnis. Why the nickname “Archduke” stuck to the piano trio in particular is lost in the mists of time.

The trio received its premier performance in April 1814 with Beethoven at the piano. A second performance a few weeks later marked Beethoven’s last public appearance as a pianist. They were apparently not successful performances. The composer Louis Spohr wrote “In forte passages the poor deaf man pounded on the keys until the strings jangled, and in piano he played so softly that whole groups of notes were omitted.” This inauspicious start did not prevent the work from becoming part of the core trio repertoire.

The first movement, in the usual sonata form, opens with a calm and somewhat reserved main theme, followed by a bouncier second theme the last part of which is actually derived from the main theme. Beethoven then embarks on an orgy of deconstruction occupying most of the movement, ripping out small fragments from the themes, changing their rhythms, altering intervals, and tipping them upside down. For instance, he takes the second, third and fourth notes of the main theme to make a separate three note motive and tosses it from instrument to instrument at the beginning of the development section. Or he has the strings superimpose a second short piece of the main theme, played pizzicato, against an inversion of a third piece in an extended episode that presages jazz. Some measure of orthodoxy returns in the recapitulation, which ends with a magnificent restatement of the opening theme and a reappearance of that three note motive, though Beethoven apparently couldn’t resist tweaking it to give it a more valedictory sound. Did Beethoven expect a contemporary audience to follow what he was up to, or was he writing for the cognoscenti?

The second movement is a scherzo in ABABA form. The “A” section is sunny and quite conventional. The “B” section, which dominates the movement, is one of Beethoven’s more bizarre creations. It starts as a canon with a highly chromatic and unsettling subject (which eventually gets tipped upside down), but before things can get too far out of hand it whipsaws back to homophony and the merry mood of the “A” section. The theme of the slow heme-and-variations movement is one of those gorgeous melodies that only Beethoven could have written. The finale is sheer delight, and it’s hard to tell who is having more fun – the performers or the audience.

Click here for Claremont Trio web site.

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