Official Release: 21 January 2021
The trio for violin, clarinet and piano is possibly the chamber ensemble obtaining the greatest timbral variety with the minimum effort. Three very different instrument are invited to cooperate with each other; three instruments with different origins, completely different timbres and techniques. The violin is probably the oldest of the three, since it conquered its definitive form already in the Baroque era, even though important changes continued to be made in the following century in order to increase its volume and to enable new virtuoso styles. Both the clarinet and the piano, instead, derive from extremely ancient prototypes, but have found their definitive shape at a much later date. The true ascent of these two instruments took place only in the eighteenth century, and they reached the full potential of their virtuoso qualities in the nineteenth century.
The idea of combining the piano with a bowed string instrument and a clarinet had come to Mozart, who was a great piano virtuoso, who loved playing the viola, and who had a soft spot in his heart for the clarinet, an instrument for which he wrote two of his absolute masterpieces – the Quintet and the Concerto. His Kegelstatt Trio, however, is not on the same level as these extraordinary works, even though it does suggest a variety of musical situations. In particular, as Mozart had acutely intuited, the piano and the clarinet are beautifully suited to each other. With respect to other wind instruments, the clarinet has a more direct and neat articulation, and therefore interacts very profitably with the nature of the piano as a “percussive” instrument. Of course, may pianists would argue that their instrument is much more than a representative of the percussions’ family: it can sing, in spite of the means of sound production it employs. Countless masterpieces have been created, demonstrating the capability of the piano to compete with the very embodiments of instrumental “singing”, i.e. the bowed string instruments. Duos, trios, quartets and quintets for piano and strings have fully demonstrated that the melodic dialogue between the piano and its bowed “cousins” is perfectly feasible on a plane of equality.
Still, it is by combining the piano with the clarinet and violin that a miniature orchestra can be contrived. The piano provides a dense and generous harmonic texture, and it may offer countless timbral opportunities and virtuoso ideas. The violin offers its inimitable singing tone, but can also provide chordal and polyphonic passages. The clarinet is probably the most lyrical of the wind instruments, but also one of the most agile and with the most extended range; therefore, it is the ideal partner of the other two, adding its own beautiful tone and extraordinary expressivity to the ensemble.
It comes as no wonder, therefore, that the twentieth century saw a blossoming of new works for this particular ensemble; the pieces recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album are among the most iconic of the entire repertoire, and offer a panorama onto a number of different approaches to this musical ensemble.
Igor Stravinsky’s Histoire du soldat was written in 1917, during World War I. Stravinsky (1882-1971) was in Switzerland at that time. He wanted to create a pièce for a small group of musicians and actors traveling around Swiss towns. The subject came from the Russian writer Alexander Afanasiev’s collection of folk tales and was adapted by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. The work was premiered in a small theater in Lausanne thanks to the financier Werner Reinhardt, who was also an amateur clarinetist. In its original version, the Histoire du soldat had a seven-players ensemble, two actors, a narrator, and a dancer. Following a request by Reinhardt, Stravinsky arranged the suite for clarinet, violin and piano, whose premiere took place in Switzerland in November 1919. While the original version has nine movements, the Suite is composed of five pieces: Marche du soldat, Le violon du soldat, Petit concert, Tango, valse, ragtime, Dance du diable.
The plot is easily summarized. Joseph the soldier is leaving. At a stream nearby he stops and starts playing his violin. The Devil is attracted by the sound of the violin and proposes wealth to the soldier in exchange for his fiddle, symbol of his soul. The soldier agrees, but then he unfortunately realises that he can no longer play. He challenges the Devil in a card game, whereupon he wins back his violin. The soldier revives an ill princess and then they get married. As Joseph wants to protect the princess from the devil, he realizes he can defeat him by playing his violin. The devil cannot resist the music and begins to writhe. He falls, exhausted.
Milhaud’ Suite for violin, clarinet and piano (op.157b) was premiered in Paris in 1936. The piece was composed adapting, as a suite in four movements, the soundtrack of Jean Anhouilh’s drama “Le Voyageur sans bagage” (op.157). The play tells about a veteran soldier from World War I who tries to reassemble his memories; when he finds out that he had been been a cruel wealthy man, he decides to change his identity.
Since the first bars the listener can identify the principal features of the work: the brightness and liveliness, as well as the use of polytonality. The Suite is divided in four movements, resembling four aphorisms. The first movement, Ouverture, recalls the period during which Milhaud had lived in Rio de Janeiro, twenty years earlier. There he absorbed a lot from the traditions and the folk culture. In fact the Suite presents a South-American rhythm. The melody is very simple, with echoes of folk music. There is a large use of the higher register of the clarinet – a clear influence of the Histoire du Soldat. The second movement, Divertissement, is more cantabile and melancholic. The clarinet answers to the lyrical line of the violin in canon form. Here polytonality is definitely less pronounced, while there is a stronger harmonic frame. In Jeu the piano stands apart, while violin and clarinet play an amusing duet. The piano comes back in the longest and most articulated movement. The Introduction is dramatic with dense chords and a tense atmosphere. In the Final the French jingles and the march-like pace make their return. Milhaud alternates rhythmical moments with melodic phrases, the diatonicism of the themes to the chromaticism of the accompaniment.
Milhaud had among his pupils P. Glass, K. Stockhausen and B. Bacharach. When someone asked the composer about the aim of his music, he answered: “Musique pour faire plaisir” – music to delight. This kind of music, that Carlo Boccadoro defines “light-hearted music”, reflects the twentieth century’s need of playing down the musical atmosphere.
Aram Khachaturian was born in 1903 in Georgia. He moved to Moscow to study at first biology, then cello, and finally composition. Today he is best remembered for his most famous piece, the Sabre Dance.
In 1932, the young musician, still a student, composed the Trio for clarinet, violin, and piano. The Armenian rhythmic dances and the popular music based on improvisation inspired the composer. The sound of clarinet and violin may recall Armenian folk instruments as the kamancha and the duduk. The work (op. 30) is composed of three movements. The rhapsodic first movement, marked with sorrow and great expression, has an undulating progression. On the one hand, there is the lazy and repetitive piano’s rhythm; on the other, there is the nostalgic dialogue between violin and clarinet, enriched by decorative elaborations and exotic cadenzas. They create a melancholy, colorful atmosphere that recalls the fairy-tales of “The thousand and one night” and the musical landscapes of Rimsky–Korsakov’s Sheherazade. The second movement begins as a scherzo. Then the tempo relaxes, and the clarinet plays a folk melody. The rhythm becomes frenetic in the Agitato section, where the two ideas are combined. After a cadenza, the folk melody returns in a solemn and triumphal form. The movement ends with the scherzo, as it had begun. The third movement is a theme and variation based on an Uzbek folk melody. The material is simple and delicate, nearly childish, but there is also something dark and enigmatic. It changes, becomes sweet, then painful, then excited and joyful. Finally, the music calms down and vanishes into the silence.
Gian Carlo Menotti’s Trio for violin, clarinet and piano was commissioned by the Verdehr Trio in 1996. The composer died recently, in 2007. He had had a prolific activity in the USA, where he moved from Italy at a very young age. Menotti’s catalogue shows a considerable number of operas, such as Il telefono or Amahl, but fewer works for chamber ensembles.
The Trio is cast in three movements. Initially, the first two movements (Capriccio and Romanza) stood alone, encapsulating the lyricism and expression of Menotti’s vocal writing. In the delightful Capriccio the three instruments seem like different characters of a chamber opera, but without words. The Romanza is a gem: the limpid phrasing of the violin, the warm tone of the clarinet and the attractive piano part are perfectly combined. The third movement – composed so late that the Verdehr Trio actually sight-read it at the first performance – consists of a lively fugato. It is titled Envoi, a French word meaning the conclusive formula of an author’s work. This finale gives the work a brilliant close.
Chiara Bertoglio, Sara Tomaiuolo, Giovanna Sevi, Angelo Nasuto © 2021
Born in 1999 in Foggia, Northern Apulia. In July 2020 she got the Master degree of Violin at the “U. Giordano” Music Conservatory with full grades and honours, after having spent one year in Erasmus at the Koninklijk Conservatorium of Gent in Belgium, as a pupil of Alessandro Moccia. In December 2020 she was admitted to the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome to attend the Chamber Music course. Since November 2020 she plays in the Orchestra of Teatro Olimpico of Vicence.
As a soloist, she performed Bruch Violin Concerto op.26, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto op.64, Wieniawsky Fantasie Brillante op.20. She had the opportunity to perform with different ensembles from duo to quintet in wonderful places, such as Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Palazzo Chiericati in Vicence, Teatro Cristallo in Bolzano and Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse in Gent. Giovanna attended violin masterclasses with professors like Olivier Charlier, Carlo Parazzoli, Sebastian Schmidt.
Because of her interest in the 20th century art, music and philosophy, she collaborated with the Music History department of the “U.Giordano” Conservatory in writing articles and essays about A.Skrjabin, U.Giordano, O.Messiaen.
Very passionate about contemporary music, in January 2021 Giovanna recorded “Piccolo Capriccio” (2014) for solo violin by Nicola Monopoli for Empirica Records.
Born in 1998 in Manfredonia, she practiced clarinet at “U. Giordano” Conservatory in Foggia (Apulia) with maestro Vincenzo Conteduca. She got Bachelor degree of clarinet with 110 and honors, and Master degree of clarinet with 110, honors, and honorable mention. She participated in the editions of “Musica in Auditorium” and of “Musica nelle corti di Capitanata” in Foggia, playing in chamber ensembles and with the conservatory symphonic orchestra. In this context, she played as a soloist Weber clarinet concerto n.1. In the context of “Musica civica” she played as a soloist Mozart clarinet concerto at Theatre U. Giordano in Foggia. She took part in orchestral productions of the Conservatory of Foggia, playing in Theatre Comunale of Bologna, Theatre U. Giordano of Foggia, Theatre Marrucino of Chieti, Teatro Grande of Pompei, Theatre Politeama of Lecce and Amphitheatre of Lucera. She took part in one edition of “Fatti ad arte” organized by “Amici della musica” in Lucera. She took part in Ayso Orchestracademy. She won first absolute prize in the national competition “Eratai” of S. Giovanni Rotondo, in the chamber music section. She took lessons with C. Palermo, G.Caldarola, A. van Wauwe, J. Hervè, C. Giuffredi, S. Nicoletta, M. Naglieri, C. Valentine, Mirò quartet, G. Gnocchi.
Born in 1993 in Foggia, he has a Diploma in Piano Solo with 10, honors and honorable mention and a Master degree in Piano Solo with 110, honors, and honorable mention, both from N. Piccinni Conservatory in Bari; currently he’s studying with M° Pasquale Iannone at the “Barletta Piano Academy”. He is the winner of several international piano competitions such as "Annarosa Taddei 2014" Award (Roma), , VII "EurOrchestra - New Interpreters 2015" International Competition, "Crescendo 2017 Award" International Competition (Firenze), XVII International Piano Competition "Vietri sul Mare", I Internetional Harpsichord Competition "Wanda Landowska", International Competition "LAMS Award" - Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, XXI International Piano Competition "Euterpe", 94 Concours International Leopold Bellan (Paris) and Semifinalist at the prestigious “In Musica Roma International Piano Competition 2020”.
He has obtained several honors including the "Aldo Ciccolini Award" in 2016 for his "valuable pianism" and the "Young Talent Fabbrini Award" in 2013 for his artistic qualities.
In his concert career he has performed in several Italian concert festival such as Music Academy of Pescara, Marrucino Theater (Chieti), Chopin Hall (Napoli), "Wanda Landowska" Festival, Camerata Salentina (Lecce), Archaeological Museum "Ridola" (Matera), Ducal Palace (Martina Franca), Piano Festival "City of Viterbo", Scriabin Series (Grosseto), Beethoven ACAM Society (Crotone). He also performed in USA, Spain and Austria. Alongside his activity as a soloist, he also played as a chamber musician with important musicians like the violinist Liya Petrova and the cellist Jonah Kim, and as soloist with Orchestras like the State Philharmonic Mihail Jora of Bacau and Sanremo Symphony Orchestra.
Aram Il'ich Khachaturian (b Tbilisi, 24 May/6 June 1903; d Moscow, 1 May 1978). Armenian composer, conductor and teacher. He is considered by some to be the central figure in 20th-century Armenian culture and, along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich, was a pillar of the Soviet school of composition. He influenced the development of composition not only in Armenia but also in Asia and South America. His name graces the Grand Concert Hall in Yerevan, a string quartet has been named after him and a prize in his name was instituted by the Armenian Ministry of Culture. His house was opened as a museum in 1978 and since 1983 the International Khachaturian Fund in Marseilles has held competitions for pianists and violinists.
Darius Milhaud: (b Marseilles, 4 Sept 1892; d Geneva, 22 June 1974). French composer. He was associated with the avant garde of the 1920s, whose abundant production reflects all musical genres. A pioneer in the use of percussion, polytonality, jazz and aleatory techniques, his music allies lyricism with often complex harmonies. Though his sources of inspiration were many and varied, his music has compelling stylistic unity.
Gian Carlo Menotti
(b Cadegliano, 7 July 1911). American composer of Italian birth. - 2007
Igor Stravinsky: (b Oranienbaum [now Lomonosov], nr St Petersburg, 5/17 June 1882; d New York, 6 April 1971). Russian composer, later of French (1934) and American (1945) nationality. One of the most widely performed and influential composers of the 20th century, he remains also one of its most multi-faceted. A study of his work automatically touches on almost every important tendency in the century’s music, from the neo-nationalism of the early ballets, through the more abrasive, experimental nationalism of the World War I years, the neo-classicism of the period 1920–51 and the studies of old music which underlay the proto-serial works of the 1950s, to the highly personal interpretation of serial method in his final decade. To some extent the mobile geography of his life is reflected in his work, with its complex patterns of influence and allusion. In another sense, however, he never lost contact with his Russian origins and, even after he ceased to compose with recognizably Russian materials or in a perceptibly Slavonic idiom, his music maintained an unbroken continuity of technique and thought.