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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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disk available from davej2211@Juno.com

sound samples

Pensiero
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 - 1904)

Terzetto in D, Op 74 (1887) (arr. David Johnson)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)

Trio in c, Op 9#3 (1798)
Jim COCKEY (b. 1947)
music available from popmouse@ctcweb.net
Elegy to an Ancient Battlefield
David Alan EARNEST (b. 1960)
music available from dav_ear@msn.com
String Trio #3: Allegretto (1998)
The Langroise Trio: Geoffrey Trabichoff, violin; David Johnson, viola; Samuel Smith, cello
Recorded in Langroise Hall, Caldwell, Idaho, USA, 19 December, 2003
No program notes. Cover photo of artists.
LANGROISE TRIO 29757-78542 [71.34]


Comparison recordings:
Dvorak Op. 74. (original version) Chilingirian Quartet members, CHANDOS 9173
Dvorak Op. 74. (original version) Lindsay Quartet members, ASV 806
Beethoven Op. 9 #3. The Leopold Trio. Hyperion CDA 67254
Beethoven Op. 9 #3. The Adaskin String Trio. Musica Omnia Mo 0106

Twenty years ago a disk description such as the one above would have been incomprehensible to any music lover, but the music world has changed enormously. The giant media companies that once controlled classical music are shrinking into irrelevance, finding a final niche as reprint labels for their superstar recordings of the last century, now moving into the public domain. Like the London and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, and the Brodsky Quartet, the Langroise Trio make their recordings available over the internet on a private disk label. Their composer friends self-publish their music, also available over the internet. We are returning to the circumstances of 400 years ago where composers, performers, and audience knew each other personally and communicated directly, but now in the context of an expanded global village.

And, like the LSO and the SFO and the Brodsky Quartet, the Langroise Trio are world class artists meriting comparison with the best there is or ever was.

Dvořák’s Op. 74 was originally written for two violinist friends with Dvořák taking the viola part. He also wrote his Op. 75 at about the same time for the same players, but eventually rescored that work for solo violin and piano, and in this new guise it became one of his most frequently performed chamber works, the original version almost never performed any more. Therefore, it is reasonable that the Op. 74 should be rescued from its unconventional provenance of string-quartet-minus-cello, and rescored for conventional string trio. In this new instrumentation the work sounds perfectly natural and it is frequently performed in this guise. The pitches are for the most part the same, but the deeper resonance of the larger instruments gives a warmer and at times more dramatic sound*.

The Chilingirians play with the most vibrato and sentimentality, the Lindsays are a little crisper while no less emotional, the Langroisians are slightly crisper still and the most dramatic overall with marginally closer recording. David Johnson’s transcription utilizes occasional octave shifts to allow changes in register color during repeats, so the Langroisian’s performance has more variety of texture, and less overall lightness than the traditional instrumentation. The music sounds more "important", slightly more orchestral and less of a "charming miniature." If you love this music (and who doesn’t!) you will want to hear it played this way.

In the Beethoven, the (English) Leopolds play this music as Beethoven would likely have heard it, played by a trio thoroughly steeped in Haydn and Mozart — graceful, smooth — allowing Beethoven’s abruptnesses to stand out in contrast. The (Canadian) Adaskins play the Beethoven in a thoroughly modern way, fully aware of all musical history since then, with Brahms, Schoenberg, Shostakovich — even Stokowski and Mengelberg — watching over their shoulders. The small weakness in both these performances is that through their concentration on style they occasionally, just for a fraction of a second, get carried away and lose focus, forget what is in front of them. And these are studio recordings where a momentary lapse can be, should have been, easily corrected. The (American) Langroise performance is a single unedited performance. They concentrate on the music and on the sound, with Geoffrey Trabichoff’s gorgeous singing tone making this music more beautiful than we would ever expect. Samuel Smith’s strongly colored and wonderfully controlled cello tone provides a solid foundation. All three performances are very fine, and I would urge you to hear them all. But the Langroise is the one you want to own.

Dvořák and Beethoven notwithstanding, the most substantial work on this disk is the Cockey Elegy. On the model of the late quartets, it is the string trio that Shostakovich never wrote. Even the five movement form reminds one of Shostakovich’s structural innovations in his later string works. Yet the work is authentic and original and effectively projects the composer’s strong personal convictions. Not since Marga Richter have we heard such authentic full brooding intensity from an American composer.

Jim Cockey was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but has spent most of his life in Idaho. He holds a composition degree from the University of Oregon where he studied with Homer Keller and Hal Owen. Among many honors Jim has received three commissions from the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, Centennial Overture, Symphony No. 1, and Aurora. His Symphony No. 2 received the "Best Instrumental Recording of the Year" award from the 7th Annual Native American Music Awards. Jim's Duo for Bass Clarinet and Viola, commissioned and performed by the Darkwood Consort, has been performed internationally, most notably at the recent First International Bass Clarinet Conference in Rotterdam.

Elegy for an Ancient Battlefield, commissioned and performed by the Langroise Trio has been performed at Lincoln Center where it was very well received. In addition to composing, Jim teaches the violin, conducts the McCall Chamber Orchestra, and occasionally takes long walks in the Idaho and Montana woods. He lives in McCall, Idaho, with his wife, Bernadine Cockey, is an award winning playwright.

Elegy for an Ancient Battlefield, is an extremely personal work. The movement titles are taken from Stanley Lombardo's stunning translation of The Iliad. Jim composed this work immediately following an exhausting period of time with his autistic son, an experience which culminated with his having to look at tragedy, unadorned, in all its bare honesty and simplicity. "During the writing, I wondered where the beautiful sections were coming from and why I was compelled to write them ... these moments come from the part of the self that makes it possible to keep going during difficult times, the part of the self that holds on to hope and vision."

Had the Earnest Trio #3 been recorded here in full, with its intensely rhythmic and dramatic, somewhat Hungarian, outer movements (written later, it must be said) there would be no thought of confusing this work with the previous one. But here on this disk passing from the Elegy directly to this "Allegretto" one is aware of a modest lightening of mood and a change in viewpoint with little change in texture. And certainly no loss of quality.

*The clarinet and viola can be considered almost interchangeable in this work as in many others.

Paul Shoemaker

 



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