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Seen and Heard International Recital  Review

The Langroise Trio: Langroise Recital Hall, Albertson's College of Idaho, Caldwell, 10.3.2007 (PSh)

Pierre Max Dubois: Suite en Trio des Cordes (1988)
Greg Bartholomew:
String Trio for George Crumb
Jean Françaix: String Trio
William Ryden: Three Tangos
Alessandro Rolla: Viola Duo
David Alan Earnest: Isle of Bathos (World Premiere)

On Saturday Evening, March 10, 2007, in Langroise Recital Hall on the campus of Albertson’s College of Idaho, in Caldwell, Idaho, the Langroise Trio  played a program of new music—that is, music they had never played in concert before, to a capacity house.  Most of the pieces were from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, modern in sound, but accessible in style, easily appreciated by an audience familiar with Shostakovich and Prokofiev.  Recent concerts had consisted of baroque and classical music works, also new to their recital programs, by Sammartini, Gregor Joseph Werner and Heinrich von Herzogenberg.  Previous to that, the Trio joined by colleagues from the strings of the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, presented the finest performance of the Brahms Sextet #1 this reviewer has ever heard, on or off records.   So, audiences come to these concerts expecting great things, and on March 10 we were not disappointed.

The Langroise Trio is Geoffrey Trabichoff, violin; David Johnson, viola; and Samuel Smith, cello.  Mr. Trabichoff, concertmaster of the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, is a graduate of the London Guildhall School of Music, and has played with many European orchestras, most recently as leader of the BBC Scottish SO.  Mr.Johnson is an honors graduate of Indiana University, and Mr. Smith of Ball State University, and both have extensive experience in chamber and orchestral playing, notably with the Fort Wayne, Indiana, PO.  All are artists in residence at Albertson’s College of Idaho.

The program began with Suite en Trio des Cordes (1988) in five movements by Pierre Max Dubois (1930 - 1995).  Dubois won the Prix du Rome in 1955 and was thereafter a professor at the Paris Conservatory.  The opening vigoreux and subsequent andante molto were widely appreciated as being among the finest moments of the entire evening.  The ensuing movements, containing musical jokes recalling Stravinsky and Rossini were somewhat thinner - leading to my suggestion to the musicians after the concert that they might play the movements in reverse order since there did not appear to be any organic logic to their succession.

The ensuing String Trio for George Crumb by Greg Bartholomew (b. 1957) was commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival Composers' Symposium in honor of American composer George Crumb’s 75th birthday and premiered in Eugene, Oregon, by the Third Angle New Music Ensemble on July 3, 2004.  The work is based upon the name of the dedicatee by taking as a theme the first and last letters of his names, thus: GEorGE CrumB, or GEGECB.  The contrapuntal first movement in open canonic style was among the finest moments of the evening.  A theme from one of Crumb’s  compositions is quoted in the second movement and the CEGB motif appears in the last movement, altered to G#EC#B, both of which movements were less successful than the first, but overall the work drew considerable interest and was enthusiastically received.

Regressing to the twentieth century, the String Trio by Jean Françaix, well known from the famous recording by Heifetz, Primrose, and Piatigorsky, was brightly presented.  My observation is that when these players become better acquainted with the work they will be able more easily to project the strong textural contrasts and camp humor inherent in the work, certainly better than Heifetz and Piatigorsky, neither of whom ever smiled, a least not on camera.  The Trio are planning the contents of their fourth CD, and in polling the audience after the concert, the Françaix was frequently requested.

Three Tangos by William Ryden (b. 1960) proved popular and entertaining, but were no less in quality than the other music on this program and were played with all possible swing and panache.  But like Scott Joplin Rags, three of them was definitely enough.

“For something completely different...” we  traveled still earlier in time to a viola duo by Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841) played by David Johnson and his student,  the very talented April Harrison who will play a solo recital next month and make her solo debut with orchestra in a concerto in the near future.  Ms Harrison matched her teacher note for note such that it was often difficult to tell who was playing what, and I believe they exchanged parts during the repeat.

We then returned to the present for the high point of the evening, the world premiere of “Isle of Bathos” by David Alan Earnest (b. 1960).   He began the composition in 2004 with the title of El Extrano Español intended to be an homage to Pablo Picasso.   Then images of islands, both in the Caribbean and Aegean Seas intruded, and the word bathos, here meaning “an abrupt change from the lofty to the ordinary” suggested itself -  hence the title applied when the work was completed on December 28, 2006.  The music is comparable with late Shostakovich only in its richness and density and the excellence of its fitting to the qualities of the instruments, but is much more positive in mood and in its greater range of its drama.  My observation is that this is the least derivative work Mr. Earnest has yet produced and likely shows the beginnings of his mature style which will inform the music to come.  The audience appreciated what they received with vigorous applause which Mr. Earnest acknowledged shyly and modestly.

Mr. Earnest (www.davidalanearnest.com) is unusual in that he makes his living composing every kind of music from TV commercials and film soundtracks through New Age woo-woo electronics to symphonic and choral oratorio, as well as chamber music.  F or eight years, he and the Langroise Trio have enjoyed  a brilliantly productive association - of world class artists with a world class composer - that has enriched the string trio repertoire with many excellent compositions.  I feel deeply privileged to be present when something so wonderful is happening here in Idaho; if you live within a day’s drive of Boise, it is well worth your effort to attend these concerts.  If you are flying to Boise on business from Paris, Sydney, or Moscow, arrange your flight to take in the next concert on 21 September 2007.  After that you may come just for the music.


Paul Shoemaker

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