By Dennis D. Rooney
The Prima Trio is composed of Anastasia Dedik, piano; Gulia Gurevich, violin and viola; and Boris Allakhverdyan, clarinet. They met while students at the Oberlin Conservatory and founded the trio in 2004. They appeared Feb. 6 on the Flagler Museum Music Series for a second time; their debut was in 2009.
Unlike the piano trio, the repertoire for clarinet, violin and piano contains few lengthy large-scale works or, if you will, “masterpieces.” Thus the Prima’s program was a varied one that focused on entertainment.
The lengthiest work came first: Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio (in E-flat, K. 498). The nickname (not the composer’s) refers to the game of skittles, which the composer may have been playing while he wrote it. However, there is no supporting evidence except that Mozart indeed enjoyed playing skittles. The nickname seems to have been added 90 years after his death.
The trio was premiered in 1786 in the house of Nikolaus von Jacquin. Anton Stadler played the clarinet, Mozart the viola. The pianist was Franziska von Jacquin, one of Mozart’s most talented pupils in Vienna. Stadler was an early practitioner of the clarinet in chamber music and the recipient of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet, two undisputed masterpieces, indeed.
K. 498’s three movements open with an Andante that explores lyric moods framed in a congenial atmosphere reinforced by the tonality of E-flat. The succeeding Menuetto has an expanded formal design, including a contrapuntal section that takes it some distance from a stylized dance. The concluding Rondo further explores the equal assortment of musical ideas and textures among all three instruments.
Mozart was the first to compose a trio for these instruments, and the only one until Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132 (1853). Works by Spohr and Reinecke preceded the next major contribution to the genre: Eight Pieces (Op. 83), by Max Bruch (1838-1920), composer of the imperishable Violin Concerto in G minor and an arrangement of Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra. Op. 83 is a late work, published in 1911, although Bruch’s clarinetist son, Max Felix, had premiered them two years earlier.
Bruch, however, ordinarily did not want the set performed complete. In keeping with those wishes, the Prima Trio chose the first, second and seventh of them: Andante, Allegro con moto, and Allegro vivace ma non troppo. The first two were very Brahmsian, which is no surprise for a composer whose music was always compared to Brahms, while the last was far more like Schumann, larger in scope and more overtly virtuosic in style. They demonstrated that Bruch was definitely not a “one-hit wonder.” As in the Mozart, Gurevich played a smallish but rich-toned viola, apparently of unknown provenance.
Astor Piazzolla’s has long occupied a place in classical music programs. His suite in homage to Vivaldi, Cuatro estanciónes porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), was originally written for quintet. Allakhverdyan arranged Otoño Porteño (Autumn) for clarinet, violin and piano. I confess to not being sympathetic to Piazzolla’s “tango-classical fusion” manner, so I will say only that the performers were entirely sympathetic interpreters who played it brilliantly.
After intermission, Allakhverdyan returned with pianist Dedik for Alamiro Giampieri’s Capriccio variato on “The Carnival of Venice,” a set of seven virtuoso variations on the well-known traditional tune, which has engendered many other sets of variations for a range of instruments from flute to tuba. Arban’s for cornet and Paganini’s for violin are probably the best known. Giampieri (1893-1963) contributed his set sometime around 1948 when they were published by Ricordi. Allakhverdyan and his partner provided full virtuosic flourish.
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) wrote much music for the theater. His friendship with the poet and diplomat Paul Claudel (1868-1955) culminated in his opera Christophe Colombe, premiered in 1930. In 1937, he contributed incidental music to Le Voyageur sans bagage, the fourth and first successful play by Jean Anouilh (1910-1987). That same year, Milhaud arranged his score for concert purposes in four movements: Ouverture; Divertissment; Jeu; and Introduction et final. The overall mood is entertainingly Gallic in feeling, only occasionally tinged with the melancholy of the play’s subject of amnesia. Throughout, tonal balance and superb articulation contributed to a zestful performance.
The “Devil’s Dance” from Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat ended the program. Its manic energy was enjoyable but one missed the other instruments of the original septet. The encore was a nod to klezmer, a freilich dance, often danced at Simchas Torah (which comes in October). Between now and then, perhaps, the Primas can work harder on achieving the proper Ashkenazic feeling.