United Kingdom Rowland-Jones, Woolrich, Colin Matthews, Cashian, Kurtág, Larsen, Dean: The Jacquin Trio, Cheltenham Contemporary Concerts, Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham, 4.11.2013. (RJ)
Simon Rowland-Jones: Trio Jaquin
John Woolrich: A Farewell
Colin Matthews: Three Interludes
Philip Cashian: The Devil’s Box
Kurtág: Hommage à R. Sch
Libby Larsen: Black Birds, Red Hills
Brett Dean: Night Window
How many works for a combination of clarinet, viola and piano can you name? Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio would doubtless head the list, but it is difficult to think of many more. Yet it is an attractive combination of instruments and the youthful Jacquin Trio, who won the St Martin in the Fields Chamber Music Competition 2012 and were finalists in the Royal Overseas League Competition, demonstrated just how versatile it can be in their programme of contemporary music which included pieces especially composed for them.
Some of the works were composed especially for the Trio including Simon Rowland-Jones’ Trio Jacquin, a technically challenging and virtuosic work with an interesting opening movement in which the viola and clarinet alternated with rhapsodic and lively passages. The slow middle movement made extensive use of harmonics while in the final movement animated intercourse between viola led to a quiet conclusion. The Woolrich piece with its playful piano part purported to have references to Baroque music, but in many ways I would have preferred to hear original Baroque music at this juncture to add contrast to the programme.
The other works were more accessible to the audience, starting with Colin Matthews’ Three Interludes cast with more conventional tonality and started with an attractive lullaby. The scurrying scherzo was full of surprises and the slow and majestic had a distincly elegiac quality. Cashian’s five movement work was suitably devilish both in difficulty and mood, with piercing cries from Jesse Grimes’ clarinet and a hauntingly tender clarinet solo later in the work. In the fourth movement pianist Charis Hanning took centre stage with quiet harmonies provided by the other players – and in the finale Zoë Matthews (viola) led the charge, as it were, with her springy, dance-like rhythms which were taken up by the other instruments.
The second half of the programme was more cosmopolitan. Kurtág’s tribute to Robert Schumann was possibly the only work in the recital with which the audience would have been familiar, and the trio skilfully brought out the contrasts between the different characters and moods referred to. Black Birds, Red Hills by the American composer Libby Larsen proved to be a wonderful evocation of the Mexican landscape which was at times dramatic, at times dreamy and Romantic, with agile birdsong adding to the vividness of the scene.
Some nights I do not sleep particularly well, and judging from Night Window Australian composer Brett Dean appears to have a similar problem. This is an absorbing work and a perfect climax to this recital. It abounds in improvisations, variations and cadenza-like figures which make it compelling musically as well as emotionally. Night-time merriment contrasts with the strange sounds of the natural world, the eerie darkness, fears and uncertainties, nightmarish shocks. The brusque jagged rhythms and spectacular effects towards the end seemed to look forward to the firework displays held around Britain on November 5th when the exploits of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot are celebrated.
Mr Dean has emerged as one of the notable composers of our age and I feel sure he would have been impressed by this superb and committed performance of Night Window by the Jacquin Trio.