Monday, August 31, 2009

Clarinet Trios by Beethoven & Brahms

Old First Concerts
Clarinet Trios by Beethoven & Brahms

Sunday, August 30, 2009 At 4:00pm

Jerome Simas, clarinet
Rebecca Rust, 'cello
Friedrich Edelmann, bassoon
Dmitriy Cogan, piano

Trio No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 11 for clarinet, 'cello & piano, ‘Gassenhauer-Trio’

Karl Michael Komma (b. 1913)
Sapphische Strophen for bassoon, 'cello, piano (1981)
(US Premiere)

Trio in A minor, Op. 114 for clarinet, 'cello & piano

This modest chamber recital at Old First Church was titled Clarinet Trios by Beethoven & Brahms, but I found the most interesting piece to be the non-conforming Sapphische Strophen by Komma. Each of its 6 short movements is inspired by a classical poem & has a distinct character. The musical idiom is modern & atonal, yet it evoked a sense of the ancient. I liked the processional-like 1st movement as well as a lyrical middle movement duet for cello & bassoon. The piece ends softly. Bassoonist Friedrich Edelmann's playing was pleasantly smooth. He gave spoken comments before each pair of movements which interrupted the flow of the piece.

We were offered neat & clean performances of the Beethoven & Brahms, though Mr. Edelmann, serving as page turner, flipped a page too soon during the last movement of the Beethoven, causing pianist Dmitriy Cogan to improvise bravely for a few bars. When Mr. Edelmann tried to turn the page back, his hand was nearly slapped by Mr. Cogan. The watchful Mr. Cogan had to shake his head determinedly a few minutes later when Mr. Edelmann was again premature.

Clarinetist Jerome Simas's playing exhibits great dynamic control. When he allowed himself to play out in rare moments during the Beethoven, I felt like he could easily create even more sound. Mr. Cogan's playing is very facile. I have no idea how he did a very rapid trill with his hand at an unusual angle. He often played with a plucked sound during the Beethoven which reminded me of a music box. He created tingling, bell-like sounds for the Komma.

The afternoon recital was attended by an audience of about 80. A watch alarm went off during the quiet last movement of the Komma & was apparently unheard by its owner. At the exact end of the Adagio of the Brahms, a motorcycle engine started up outside, causing Mr. Cogan to look up & smile. At the start of the program, the series director asked the audience what they were going to do next weekend, when the series has a break. She got no suggestions.

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