Trio Clavio’s Wonderful New Album

Trio Clavo008

STRAVINSKY: L’Histoire du soldat: Suite. BARTÓK: Contrasts. SCHOENFIELD: Trio for Clarinet, Violin & Piano. HURNÍK: Alphabet. BRUNNER: Like Children. FILAS: “Chiaroscuro” Trio-Sonata for Violin, Clarinet & Piano. BODOROVÁ: Vallja e malit, “Dancing Mountain” / Trio Clavio: Lucia Fulka Kopsová, vln; Jana Černohouzová, cl; Lucia Soutorová Valčová,  pno / ArcoDiva UP0204

The classical literature for the combination of violin, clarinet and piano is relatively small, as is the repertoire for the same instruments plus cello (used by Messiaen in his Quartet for the End of Time), but this very clever Czechoslovak trio has managed to squeeze out a 2-CD set of such music—largely contemporary, of course, although one can scarcely call the Stravinsky and Bartók pieces “contemporary” in 2018.

My sole complaint with this CD, which I will get out the way quickly, is in the photographic presentation of the trio. I didn’t mind so much the cover picture, silly as it is—that’s typical of classical CD covers for chamber groups nowadays—as I did the inside pictures of Kopsová sitting in a lounge chair, holding her violin off to the side by one fingertip with a silly grin on her face, or worse yet, Černohouzová laying across a lounge chair, her sexy legs crossed and her head thrown back with her long hair hanging down, holding her clarinet as if it were a prop, something she didn’t even play. This is demeaning to these serious women musicians. When was the last time you saw, for instance, the Belcea Quartet trying to look like sex dolls with instruments? Or cellist Steven Isserlis standing, with no shirt on, over a motorcycle with a “hey-baby-aren’t-I-cute?” look on his face? The answer is, never.

And these musicians deserve much more respect than that. They are serious artists who play with an infectious joy, infusing new life into each piece they perform on this set. They bring a wealth of little inflections to Stravinsky’s Histoire du soldat and, more interestingly, Bartók’s Contrasts. In the latter piece, Černohouzová, despite having a purer tone, captures the folk-like edge that Benny Goodman brought to it, violinist Kopsová does an admirable job emulating a folk fiddle, and pianist Valčová has much of the same warmth and delicacy that Bela Bartók himself did on the original recording. This is not easy to do. Of all other recordings I’ve heard of this piece, only the one with violinist Ani Kavafian and clarinetist David Schifrin comes close to this. Brava, ladies!

Amazingly for an Eastern European trio, these musicians bring a jazz sensibility to both Paul Schoenfield’s Trio and, more amazingly, to Alphabet by composer Lukáš Hurník. The latter piece is described in the booklet by the composer as a musical representation of the letters of the alphabet, with vowels represented by shapes of the letters (with E’s “three horizontal lines” giving rise “to a three-part fugue”) while the consonants are represented by “sounds.” No matter; the music is cleverly written and effective.

Martin Brummer’s little suite, Like Children, is sweetly naïve music, charming yet well-crafted, played with a considerable amount of affection by the trio. By contrast, Filas’ “Chiaroscuro” Trio is a surprisingly sweet, romantic piece, yet one that is so artless and charming that you don’t mind its gentle framework and consistently tonal harmonies. Sylvie Bodorová’s Dancing Mountains, also tonal, is a lively, energetic piece in two movements, again played with considerable energy and lift by this talented trio—and, like some of the other works, ending with a klezmer dance.

This is a really delightful album, well worth exploring.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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