> The Making of a Medium Vol. 3 - The Verdehr Trio [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gunther SCHULLER (born 1925)
A Trio Setting (1990)
William AVERITT (born 1948)

Tripartita (1989)
Nathan CURRIER (born 1960)

Adagio and Variations (1987)
The Verdehr Trio (Walter Verdehr, violin; Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, clarinet; Gary Kirkpatrick, piano)
Recorded: neither dates nor venues given


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Schuller’s A Trio Setting, completed in 1990, is a substantial work in four movements of which the brief first movement is more like a brilliant accompanied cadenza for clarinet, a colourful curtain-raiser introducing the other, weightier movements. The sparkling introduction is followed by an emotionally restrained, but deeply-felt slow movement marked Slow and dreamy which nevertheless encloses a brief and sudden climax. This is then followed by a lively Scherzo with a calmer middle section of some intensity. The concluding Molto Agitato is quite tense at times but also has a slow section providing for some respite before the return of the agitato material rushing the music to its forceful, dramatic conclusion.

In total contrast with Schuller’s tense, often troubled trio, Averitt’s Tripartita is somewhat lighter in mood, though definitely not lightweight music. The first movement states a number of ideas that are worked-out in the following movements. The music, however, often incorporates elements derived from popular music idioms. So, the second movement Dances (actually a Scherzo with two trios) has some jazzy inflections whereas the third movement Blues with Variations, thematically linked to the preceding Scherzo, also contains echoes of waltz and tango. This is a quite attractive work, superbly crafted and ingenuously worked-out. No trifle, for sure, but it provides for some relaxation.

Nathan Currier’s Adagio and Variations is the most substantial and ambitious work in this release. This is in fact a double set of variations, so the composer tells us, based on two disparate sources: on the one hand, ‘original’ material and, on the other hand, a song by Binchois De plus en plus which is only quoted near the end of the work. The Binchois tune appropriately acquires more prominence as the work unfolds though the ‘original’ material is never really absent. Though formally quite intricate, the music has much vitality, invention and variety, and unfolds almost effortlessly and seamlessly throughout. Quite an achievement, and this beautifully wrought piece is much more than the expert and clever working-out of some technical considerations. Rather it is a very rewarding musical experience that repays repeated hearings. For the anecdote’s sake, I was delighted to read that this piece was composed in Liège.

CRYSTAL’s series The Making of a Medium, of which this release is Volume 3, not only demonstrates the outstanding musical qualities of the Verdehr Trio but also offers an excellent survey of the many works written for them. This release is, no doubt, one of the most rewarding so far for its couples three substantial works of quality that are well worth hearing.


Hubert Culot

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