For our fall season opener we are turning convention upside down. For decades, maybe centuries, it has been common to do a little piece to open, a “new” piece, then after intermission a major work that takes up the whole second half.

We decided to have some fun on the second half and shake it up a little.

We’ll open with the Schubert’s beautiful Adagio in E-Flat Major (“Notturno”) for piano trio. Not published until 18 years after his death, it is widely believed to be a slow movement from a complete piano trio, either an unfinished one or his Piano Trio in B-flat Major, D. 898. The movement was originally just titled “Adagio” by Schubert and was most likely named “Notturno” by its first publisher. Whatever its beginnings, the beautiful subdued atmosphere of this piece helped it earn its nickname, and while it may not be Schubert’s own, it definitely fits.

We will continue with the Brahms’ Trio, Op. 114, referred to as the Clarinet Trio. Brahms had retired from composing and had just completed details in his will when he was introduced to the playing of clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinet of the Meiningen Orchestra. Brahms’ reaction was so immediate that he wrote this trio and a quintet for clarinet and string quartet that year, adding two sonatas for clarinet and piano three years later. All this from a composer who had never used the clarinet in his chamber music before! Written in four short, concise movements, the Trio is the work of a great master at the height of his powers. Brahms weaves the instruments together with consummate skill and changes character throughout the piece from resignation to lighthearted dance, creating a work of depth and great joy.

On the second half we will begin with “Gulfstream” by the composer Peter Lieuwen. Born in the Netherlands, and growing up in New Mexico, Peter wrote this piece in 2008 for the centennial of French composer Olivier Messiaen’s birth. He chose the same ensemble of instruments as in Messiaen’s seminal “Quartet for the End of Time,” and in the work he attempts to represent the swirling waters of the Gulf Stream current. Not an easy task he set for himself! But the piece does produce a wonderful atmosphere, with changing characters and movement like the current itself through numerous tonalities and moods. With insistent motor-rhythm provided by the piano, the composition relies on the juxtaposition of pan-diatonic gestures; using the so-called diminished scale (an alternation of half steps and whole steps), he creates musical effects suggesting the movement of water and light.

We will end the concert with the Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano of Paul Schoenfield, written in 1990. An incredibly eclectic person, Paul’s trio is inspired by klezmer music, a distinctive style of secular Jewish instrumental music which often features the violin and clarinet. This trio shows the many faces of klezmer, from the first movement, called “Freylekh” (Yiddish for “festive,” and the most common klezmer genre); to the second movement, “March,” which is full of energy, even anger; to the haunting character of the third movement, “Nijun”, with its somber religious melodies; and finally to “Koztzke,” an upbeat movement full of rhythmic complexity that brings this wonderful piece, and our concert, to a close.

We hope this will be an exciting kick off to the season full of pathos and joy. LB


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