KHACHATURIAN: Trio in G min. MILHAUD: Suite for Clarinet, Violin & Piano. SCHICKELE: Serenade for Three. HENRY: Trio No. 2 / Ensemble Next Parallel: Yevgeny Dorkshansky, cl; Enrique Reynosa, vln; Anna Nizhegorodtseva, pno / Heritage HTGD 170
According to the notes, the idea behind this CD was to “highlight the trajectory of the clarinet, violin and piano trio repertoire of the 20th century with a bridge into the future of the 21st century. This CD takes listeners around the world with the music of the composers from Armenia, France, America, and finally to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.”
We start out with Aram Khachaturian’s trio in G minor, written when the composer was only 29 years old. It’s a piece typical of this composer, lyrical in a Slavic manner with strong rhythms, evident even in the slow movement that opens the piece. The Ensemble plays it with excellent energy, getting under the skin of the music and making more of it than it appears on paper. This music is harmonically subtler than many of Khachaturian’s orchestral works, slyly sliding into neighboring tonalities and back again. One thing I like about this trio is that they work to make their diverse instruments fit together in sound, something that not many groups with a violin and a clarinet bother to do. The second movement begins with a fast, steady rhythm but almost immediately eases up to allow the clarinet a melodic solo, around which the violin plays both pizzicato and bowed and the piano plays up in the treble register. The tempo picks up again at the 2:20 mark for the finish of the movement, following which is a slightly melancholy-sounding “Moderato” finale with very Eastern harmonies. at 4:35, the tempo picks up to a brisk “Allegro” as the trio rides it out.
Darius Milhaud’s Suite, written in 1936, begins in a surprisingly polite vein for a man who so often pushed the envelope in his compositions. The music is simple, melodic and attractive, albeit with some interesting harmonic touches that tell you it’s not really a late Romantic work. The second-movement “Animé” opens at a brisk 6/8 tempo but with some modifications here and there, including dips into a straight 4. The third movement, taken in 4, is short, brisk and lively, while the fourth begins with a slow introduction before moving into a cute, medium-fast little French jig.
Next up is a composer whose name everyone knows, Peter Schickele, who in his alter ego plays the Spike Jones of the classical world, P.D.Q. Bach. This, too, is one of his more playful and less serious works, a delightful trio that includes a few allusions to jazz rhythm, particularly in the first movement with its jaunty, serrated melodic lines. The second movement, slow and moody, opens with the piano playing single notes like spaced-out raindrops over which the violin and clarinet play a bittersweet melody. This movement ends quietly and plaintively, followed by the boisterous “Variations” in which Schickele pulls out all the stops. There’s even a passage for the violin that sounds like a hoedown, and one for the piano in boogie-woogie style.
We end our little excursion with the trio by Roger J. Henry, a composer from Trinidad and Tobago who wrote this work for this trio (this is its first recording), yet the first movement sounds, if anything, more Hebraic than Caribbean, with a slow, plaintive melody which leans towards the minor with a major-key bridge and a lively second section also in the minor, where the variations ensue…although, starting at the 3:40 mark, some of the rhythms become fairly complex. It’s in the second movement that one hears a real Caribbean beat, played to perfection by the trio. There’s even a touch of the cha-cha in this piece, as well as a surprising touch of Chopin at the 2:47 mark. The third movement is a bittersweet little waltz, while the fourth and last is a playful little rhumba.
All in all, then, not a deep album but a very entertaining one. All of the music is well written despite its light character, and Ensemble Next Parallel plays everything with sparkle.
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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