Déjà Review: this review was first published in June 2000 and the recording is still available

The Making of a Medium – Volume 1
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Trio K.381
GIrolami Frescobaldi
Canzoni a due
Alan Hovhaness
Lake Samish
Thomas Pasatieri
Béla Bartók
The Verdehr Trio
Crystal Records CD741 [70]

The Verdehr have teamed with Crystal to make a series of discs featuring the trio in various permutations. This CD, the first in the series, features a typical clarinet trio.

The Mozart (K381) is the Verdehr’s own skilful arrangement of a piano duo – rather dour in the busy first and final movements but authentically dulcet in the second. The Frescobaldi switches harpsichord and piano as is consistent with the early 17th century origin. The Canzone seconda and Quinta have a certain slender sweetness.

Thomas Pasatieri (b. 1945 New York City) wrote Theatrepieces (3 movements) for the Verdehr in 1986. Pasatieri is the latest in a long line of lyric American Italians: Creston, Menotti, Giannini. The trio is in three movements and one can certainly pick up his operatic credentials (he has written 17!) from the singable lines in a bed of Rachmaninovian sentiment, some slavonic and even English (Finzi!) angst. The whole work is romantically inclined but with enough peppery emotion to avoid blandness.

The Bartók Contrasts is a Benny Goodman commission from 1938-40. Its atmosphere is one of fret and worry and although there are some moments of relaxation (notable in the gypsy riffs and ruffles of the Sebes finale) it is still a comparatively sturdy piece of resilient modernism.

Hovhaness’s 1989 Lake Samish is a characteristic (for Hovhaness!) five movement trio with each movement in contrast. The slashing and stabbing of the persistent allegro contrasts with the celestial hymns of the first and third movements using a hymn to a tune whose outline English ears associate with the sung words ‘all glory, laud and honour to thee redeemer King’. The latter part of the third andante maestoso is a sinuous drugged snake dance. Celestial stars glitter in the adagio misterioso which gives way to the becalmed dripping waters of the final Jhala movement which in turn resolves into a fast flickering dance.

A fine selection and a recommendable disc.

Rob Barnett

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