“hat trick” Weaves a Spell on Listeners


GARDEN OF JOYS AND SORROWS / AGUILA: Submerged. DEBUSSY: Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp. TAKEMITSU: And then I knew ‘twas Wind. DUBOIS: Terzettino. GUBAIDULINA: Garten von Freuden und Traurigkeiten* / hat trick: April Clayton, flautist; David Wallace, violist; Kristi Shade, harpist; *Aine Zimmerman, reciter / Bridge 9472

Although I’m not normally the kind of person to respond to “ambient classical,” “classical lite” or “neo-classical chamber” (all euphemisms used nowadays for light, airy music in a classical vein), occasionally I am taken in by music that is relaxed and exquisitely beautiful so long as there is some “meat” on its ambient classical bones. Such is the case with this recording, which I was tempted to review because it contained two works by composers I like, Debussy and Takemitsu, and in the case of the former it was nothing less than one of his late masterpieces, the trio sonata for flute, viola and harp, an oft-neglected gem if there ever was one.

Before getting to the Debussy sonata, however, we have a performance of Miguel del Aguila’s Submerged, a nine-minute work commissioned by hat trick (yes, that’s the name of the group, and they use lower case). The opening section of the work was very lively with a Celtic feel to it, but nice as it was it scarcely prepared the listener for the second half. Here, the music dropped in both tempo and volume to create an incredible atmosphere, almost diametrically opposed to the first. I was absolutely mesmerized by this, so much so that I stopped what I was doing and just listened hard, absorbing it all in. Quite exquisite!

Their performance of the Debussy Sonata, according to the notes, is based on an entirely new edition of the sonata which went back to the autograph. “Due most likely to circumstances surrounding the interwar time period when this work was originally published,” say the notes, “many details of Debussy’s own score were changed slightly upon publication…some smaller, some more significant.” Without having the score in front of me I was unable to catch them all, but of course the bottom line is, How good a performance is this? I found it first-rate, nearly as good as my all-time favorite version by members of the famed Nash Ensemble on what is surely one of the most exquisite Debussy albums ever released.

Takemitsu’s And then I knew ‘twas Wind was inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem, Like Rain it sounded till it curved. The score is remarkably similar to Debussy in both mood and scoring, even to the point where he used some bits of the Debussy sonata in his own work. Théodore Dubois’ 1905 Terzettino is the most lightweight piece on the disc, but hat trick plays it with such exquisite care and detail that they make it come alive.

Sofia Gubaidulina’s 1980 piece Garten von Freuden und Traurigkeiten is the other great masterpiece on this disc. Carefully crafted and sounding more Oriental than anything else, utilizing the instruments in unusual ways, such as having the harp played with all ten fingers at once as if it were the inside strings of a piano, and having the viola play very lightly on the edge of the strings. Although the piece is 15 minutes long, hat trick’s performance is so involving and deep that one scarcely notices the passing of time. After it is over, Aine Zimmerman recites the Francisco Tanzer poem on which it is based in German.

All in all, this is a very fine and refreshing disc, well worth hearing. It makes great music for bringing yourself back to your calm center.

—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley

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