Thomas Hill, clarinet
Lynn Chang, violin
Marcus Thompson, viola
Randall Hodgkinson, piano (Mozart, Schumann)
Mihae Lee, piano (Stravinsky, Bartók)
Mozart’s K. 498 trio in E-flat major was completed on August 5, 1786 and the sobriquet “Kegelstatt” comes to the piece because of the intriguing but not proven legend that Mozart conceived and completed the entire piece in his mind during a game of skittles, also known as “keggles.” The work itself—an astounding instance of internal musical cohesion as well as the prowess of feminine delicacy—is in three movements: a stately, confident Andante, characterized by a persistent and elegant groupetto figure; a blissful, almost defiant little Menuetto; and finally a soaring, noble Rondo which sings from beginning to end and which as Alfred Einstein wrote “does not only satisfy the listener, but leaves him enchanted.”
The title of Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (“Fairy Tales”) tells us that these lyrical miniatures are character pieces intended to suggest favorite stories of childhood. However, if Schumann had any particular tales or situations in mind, he never identified them, and we can enjoy the music without being burdened by such details. The characters who were most active in the mythical Davidsbünd, Schumann’s early “invention” to fight the good fight against the philistines of German artistic life, were the heroic Florestan and the dreamy Eusebius. Their personalities are still evident in the music composed in the fall of 1853, particularly in the third movement (Eusebius) and the final movement, in which one can imagine Schumann and his heroic Florestan marching out one last time against the forces of philistinism.
L’Histoire du Soldat (“The Soldier’s Tale”) is from a time when Stravinsky’s artistic biological clock was turning his creative bent against his own penchant for Russian folk material. The original orchestration (violin, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, double bass, percussion, and narrator) was specifically designed so that the work could be presented as an easily toured theatre piece. In Stravinsky’s own paring down for the trio reduction, a large part of the “missing” instrumentation is relegated to the virtuosic piano part; although the clarinet inherits significant bits of trumpet, bassoon and trombone utterances while retaining responsibility for its own role in the original version. The violin role remains the fiendish tour de force that it is in the original rendering, and the piano and clarinet parts are, at the very least, eminent undertakings.
Bartók’s Contrasts was commissioned by Benny Goodman and Joseph Szigeti. Far from trying to blend the three very different types of instruments into a single complex sonority, Bartók exploits the difference in sound production. The Verbunkos was a musical genre employed to encourage enlistments in the Hungarian army in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, featuring sharply dotted rhythms in a slow march tempo. The Verbunkos ends with a clarinet cadenza leading on to the languid slow movement, in which piano and clarinet begin by mirroring one another, while the piano contributes soft percussive tremolos inspired by Balinese gamelan music. The fast dance, Sebes, begins with a short passage on a scordatura violin (with the E-string tuned to E-flat and the G-string to G-sharp), following which the violin is directed to return to a second, normally tuned instrument. The outer sections of the dance are in a lively 2/4 meter, but the extended middle section uses what is often called “Bulgarian rhythm” which Bartók learned in his folk music studies. When the original 2/4 returns, the dance gets wilder and wilder before reaching its brilliant conclusion.
/ Edited from CD liner notes by Thomas Hill (Mozart & Stravinsky) and Steven Ledbetter (Schumann & Bartók)
About Boston Chamber Music Society:
Founded in 1982 by a group of enthusiastic music colleagues, Boston Chamber Music Society, BCMS, is an ensemble of superb musicians who come together in different combinations to prepare and perform chamber music. Over the last twenty plus seasons, BCMS has built a reputation for impassioned performances, ripened over time by the long personal and professional histories of its member musicians. While they are all celebrated soloists, their primary passion remains the rich and extensive chamber music repertoire.
BCMS invites guest musicians, chosen for their particular affinity for, and mastery of, the works they will play, to join the members, expanding the artistic possibilities to virtually all works in the chamber music repertoire.
BCMS presents the most extensive and longest-running concert series in Boston\'s musically fertile region and is distinguished for its enduring performance standards. The ensemble playing demonstrates the perfect combination of control and freedom that comes from years of collaboration: individual musical personalities find expression without dominating. The effect is one of the miracles of music—sheer aesthetic beauty.