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Classical 101

Modern Chamber Music at Short North Stage, This Wednesday

The Camerata Trio features CSO musicians and educators Luis Biava (cello) and Ariane Sletner (violin), and Otterbein piano faculty member Suzanne Newcomb.

"Musical Tea: Modern Chamber Works by the Camarata Trio" is the full title of the upcoming Johnstone Fund for New Music concert. The program boasts works by composers such as Arvo Pärt and Leonard Bernstein, performed by three musicians of the Columbus Symphony who are also noteworthy Central Ohio music educators. As if that is not enough to peak your interest, as always, the concert is free of charge and open to the public.

The Program

Arvo Pärt's Mozart-Adagio (1992, rev. 2005)

Originally commissioned for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio to perform for the Helsinki Festival, Arvo Pärt's Mozart-Adagio (1992, rev. 2005) for violin, cello, and piano, was written in memory of one of Russia's most-loved violinists, and friend of the composer, Oleg Kagan. 

Pärt, the famed Estonian composer and father of the tintinnabuli compositional methodology, was well-acquainted with Kagan's love of Mozart and particularly the effectiveness of his Adagio from the Sonata in F Major, K. 280. Rather than approaching Mozart-Adagio with the light-hearted nature found in his earlier work inspired by Bach,Enn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte, this later work takes the solemn appreciation of Mozart's melody in line with Pärt's own tintinnabuli musical language.

It's one of my favorite works by the composer due to its ability to capture the sound of two composers at once; it's like a dialogue, really. 

Here is the work performed by Benjamin Hudson, Sebastian Klinger, and Jürgen Kruse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bjmu9Clk4ck

Augusta Read Thomas: Moon Jig (2005)

I was not familiar with Augusta Read Thomas's Moon Jig before researching the work, but it does not disappoint. In keeping with the usual form of a jig (or historical, "gigue"), the piano part begins in a swirling bass function that opposes the string instruments until they eventually muster into one jazzy, punchy, leaping, combined sound. 

I won't ruin the surprise of this work; it really is better heard anew, but here is a taste of this great American composer's work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZI8qUx7Ulc

Lera Auerbach: Postscriptum (2007)

This is a work true to the Johnstone ideal of experience; I cannot find anything about the piece other than its composer, the fact that it is five minutes in duration, and that it is scored for violin, cello, and piano. It will simply have to be experienced in person. 

Elliott Carter: Epigrams (2012)

Two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and student of the great Nadia Boulanger, Elliot Carter was one of the most industrious American composers. He wrote over 50 new works between the age of 90 to 104 when he passed away in 2012. His last completed works were the 12 Epigrams for Piano written in 2012 just a few weeks before he would have turned 104. 

This may seem like a simple reduction of a long-lived composer, but at its core the longevity and productivity of this composer inform how this, his final piece, can be perceived and what it might have meant as a temporal expression. How many other pieces of music have you heard from someone who has lived over a century? 

Jennifer Higdon: Pale Yellow (2003)

There are a reasons Jennifer Higdon has become one of the most famous American composers in recent decades; her music is often lush and romantic without being stale or predictable. Such is the case with her work, "Pale Yellow." It's not the only piece of Higdon's to employ the suggestion of color as a theme, but I find it to be the most effective and affective, and it is probably my favorite work on the program. Here's why:


Leonard Bernstein: Piano Trio (1937)

The oldest work on this program of mostly new, otherwise 21st Century music is certainly a dramatic ending to what should be an evening of diverse musical language. The work was written by Bernstein whilst he was still studying at Harvard University as the pupil of Walter Piston.

At just 19 years old, Bernstein captured quite a bit of dexterity and meaning with this work; the opening lack of discernable tonality may not be what you expect from Bernstein, but it's surely impactful. The three movements are illustrative of the time in which Bernstein was writing, but none are so anachronistic to be cloying or trite nearly a century later. The "blue" notes in the second movement so obviously captured from the popular jazz scene of his time fit with the cello's mournful sound in the first movement, and the final Largo movement remains just as varied yet cohesive.

In sum, it should be a very effective closing work for what is sure to be an evening not to miss; something new and something impactful.