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A String Trio Fest

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l to r: Vitenson, Van Eck, Klotz l to r: Vitenson, Van Eck, Klotz

Starting the second concert in the chamber music series by Chameleon in Ft. Lauderdale was no less than 15 ‘inventions’ by Johann Sebastian Bach from the 1720s. A better-known term is sinfonias, which are essentially little symphonies. Each can be considered as a cameo of varying size.

Some of the 15 performed on Nov. 29 are inscribed with scenes from the drawing room, others conjure the imagery of a stately dalliance. Still others are evocative of a promenade through the palace gardens. Together these 15 inventions form a delightful curio cabinet of musical miniatures.

Michael Klotz said at the concert “My favourite thing to do locally is to play in Iris’ series, Chameleon. She always challenges us- a quintessential string trio concert it is not. One of the hallmarks of Iris is that she searches for an unusual repertoire. I always feel tired after playing here,” he said jocularly. All three performers- violinist Misha Vitenson, cellist Iris van Eck and violist Klotz- were likely all tired after performing a short intermezzo for String Trio by Kodaly and two major compositions by Robert Muczynski and Max Reger.

The Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello by Muczynski is a very rarely heard composition. On, for example, there are 100 selections by Muczynski, but no sign of this trio. Likewise for the piece by Max Reger: 100 selections, but no trio.

The centerpiece of the concert was the Trio, opus 31, by Muczynski, which was created in 1972. In a tribute to him after his death in 2010, saxophonist David Pearson wrote “Muczynski is one of those 20th century composers who are under-performed and under-appreciated because they do not fit into the worlds of minimalism, serialism, or experiments in new sounds. His music puts emotion and expression at its core, and in drawing together disparate elements into a cohesive and highly individual style his compositions are daring and traditional at the same time.”

The first movement of his opus 31, Allegro, is very dark and brooding- think of a walk on the moors with the Hound of the Baskervilles baying in the (not too far) distance. The conclusion of the allegro is astonishing in its electric effect. The stage set by the allegro is dressed in black crepe in the second movement, which is the personification of somber mood music.

The third movement is frenetic, literally a chase scene through the corridors of the mind: and quite likely a deranged one, if the earlier parts of the composition are any indication. In the fourth and final movement, the cello tries to maintain a sense of normalcy opposing the sounds from the violin and viola, but it eventually joins in the maelstrom that ends this extraordinary work.

The Max Reger Trio for violin, viola and cello No. 1 (opus 77b) was first performed in 1904. The first movement exhibits a complex tonal texture woven by the three instruments, and the sprightly fourth movement was a showcase for the mastery of the three musicians as they navigated its demanding score. The Trio does have moments of brilliance, but Reger is unable to maintain it throughout as he tries without total success to emulate both Mozart and Beethoven.

The next in Chameleon’s brilliant offering of chamber music can be heard at the Leiser Opera Center in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 24, 2016.

Photo by C. J. Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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