Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op.83
by Max Bruch (1838-1920)
- No.5 Rumanische Melodie – Andante
- No.2 Allegro con moto
- No.6 Nachtgesang- Andante con moto
- No.4 Allegro agitato
Max Bruch was a composer, conductor and teacher steeped in the German Romantic tradition. Despite living well into the twentieth century, he resisted all modern compositional innovations and sought instead the time-honoured forms and harmonies of the Romantic age as inspired by his friend and mentor Johannes Brahms. His orchestral music, concertos and chamber music display well-written structure, rich harmonies and above all, extraordinarily beautiful melodic invention.
Bruch wrote the Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op.83 for his son, Max Felix, then a young professional clarinetist at the beginning of his career. Max Felix performed in the trio that premiered the work in Berlin in 1910. These pieces are commonly performed individually or in various combinations. No.5 is based on Romanian folk music and opens with a soulful cello introduction over an arpeggiated piano accompaniment, soon joined by the clarinet in an interweaving of passionate melodies. No.2 presents glowing melodies that soar over a rolling energetic piano part. In No.6, “Nachtgesang”(night song), we hear a starlit duet between the clarinet and cello over a detached piano accompaniment. The set ends with No.4, an excited and acrobatic tumbling of notes that propels the music to its conclusion.
The inscription on Max Bruch’s gravestone: Music is the language of God.
Seven Balkan Dances
by Marko Tajcevic (1900-1984)
- Con moto
- Sostenuto e cantabile
- Allegro ritmico
- Allegro quasi pesante
Marko Tajcevic was a Serbian-Yugoslav composer, teacher, conductor and music critic who wrote for solo voice, choir, chamber orchestra and chamber music combinations. His output was relatively small due to that diversified career and slow, meticulous work ethic. He wrote pieces of short duration, mostly in small forms. Tajcevic’s contribution of six folksongs for voice and piano to a Zagreb concert series called “Our Folklore” in 1923 was hugely successful and launched his composing career. In 1926, in like manner, Tajcevic wrote Seven Balkan Dances for piano solo and subsequently set them for clarinet, cello and piano. He was inspired by dances from the Balkan region of Eastern Europe: celebratory social dances in line or circle formations. Tajcevic’s Seven Dances abound in catchy tunes, intricate rhythms, asymmetrical meters and irregular phrase lengths. Harmony is modal with intense chromatic inflections and colouristic effects. This music engagingly captures the spirit of beloved regional Balkan dances and offers them to a wider world audience.
Critics have called Tajcevic: “Superb master of the miniature.”
Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op.114
by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
- Andantino grazioso
By 1890, Johannes Brahms was a highly esteemed and prominent composer enjoying the end of an exemplary career; with satisfaction, he announced his retirement. However, a concert he attended in March of 1891 dramatically changed his mind. He heard the clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld play and was captivated and enchanted by his performance, calling him “his dear nightingale.” From 1891 to 1894, Brahms became re-inspired and wrote four glorious chamber works that featured the clarinet – all masterpieces.
The Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op.114 was first performed on December 12, 1891 with Brahms at the piano and Muhfeld playing clarinet; the music is warm, nostalgic, melancholic and complex – Brahms plays with light and dark. The first movement, Allegro, offers moments of great dramatic weight in contrast to intense lyricism. The writing for the clarinet spans its entire range. The second movement, Adagio, is warm and tender and features much echoing amongst the parts throughout its condensed musical material. The third movement, Andantino grazioso, offers a folk-like melody, graceful and lilting. The stirring fourth movement, Allegro, completes the trio with music of rhythmic intricacy and driving energy.
“The idea comes to me from outside of me - and is like a gift. I then take the idea and make it my own - that is where the skill lies.” – Johannes Brahms