|Angus MERYON (Clarinet)
Born in 1975, Angus Meryon has studied with Colin Bradbury, one-time principal clarinettist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. At sixteen, Angus became a member of the National Youth Orchestra and Youth Wind Orchestra, of which he was a co-leader for two years. After studying at the Royal College of Music, where he won prestigious prizes, he quickly developed a successful solo and recital career, appearing in 2001/2 in the ‘Making Music’ Concert Promoters Network Scheme. His partnership with pianist Richard Saxel has led to many acclaimed recital engagements, and in 2002 he made his London debut at the Purcell Room. Chamber music concerts and concerto solo performances have taken him to venues throughout the UK and many parts of the world. His commitment to music education led to his appointment as Head of Woodwind at Cranleigh School in Surrey.
Jitka VLAŠÁNKOVÁ (Cello)
Jitka began to play the cello at the age of seven, and studied at the Academy of Music in Prague. Having taken part in international courses with many famous acclaimed musicians, she was granted a British Council scholarship to study with William Pleeth in London. During her studies, she participated in several national and international competitions, winning first prize in the National Beethoven Cello Competition 1981, third prize in the Prague International Cello Competition 1983, and a best performance prize in the Pablo Casals International Competiton 1985. Among her numerous musical activities, Jitka has been a member of the renowned Martinu Quartet since 1986. We were delighted to welcome this international renowned ensemble to play for us recently at South Holland Concerts, and they have recorded extensively for CD labels such as Naxos and Harmonia Mundi.
Richard SAXEL (Piano)
Richard Saxel studied at York University and the Royal Academy of Music in London with pianists Clifford Benson and Michael Dussek. As a versatile concert pianist, Richard has worked throughout the UK and abroad in many musical fields including chamber music, concerto work, jazz and film soundtracks. As a chamber musician, he has appeared with many accomplished musicians including the Endymion Ensemble, and has received several awards including the 2002 NFMS ‘Making Music’ Award. Also strongly committed to education, Richard is currently Head of Piano at Cranleigh School in Surrey. He has also given numerous workshops and masterclasses, and has been involved with the International Summer School at Dartington.
Trio in B flat major op.11 - Beethoven (1770-1827)
Trio ‘Pathétique’ in D minor - Glinka (1804-1857)
Trio in A minor op.114 - Brahms (1833-1897)
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Trio in B flat major op.11 Beethoven (1770-1827)
Tema: Pria ch’io l’impegno (Allegretto)
This delightful trio is an early work composed in 1798 a short time before Beethoven started work on the first of his string quartets. The composer wrote six major piano trios – for the usual combination of violin, cello and piano. But between the three earliest works (op.1) and a more mature later set, he composed this charming B♭ trio with the clarinet taking the treble line. The piece is quite frequently heard in versions with the violin in place of the clarinet, and occasionally with the bassoon in place of the cello.
The Allegro opens with a striking four bar opening statement in unison on all the instruments:
A second, more sombre section of the movement begins in a new key on the piano:
But this more reflective mood doesn’t invade the music for long, as joyous material from earlier on is quickly re-introduced and developed in free interplay between the instruments.
The Adagio opens with a lovely lyrical tune on the cello immediately taken up by the clarinet:
A mid-section, dominated by the piano, introduces a new rather sombre minor mood, but the movement concludes with ideas taken from the opening lyrical theme.
The music of the Finale (Allegretto) is based on a popular tune from an opera by a little-known composer Joseph Weigl (1777-1846). Beethoven develops Weigl’s simple folk-like theme in an enchanting set of nine variations. This is the main theme:
The first variation is for piano alone. Subsequent sections include variations for unaccompanied clarinet and cello, variations in which the three instruments present the main theme in fascinating alternation between major and minor keys, and a number of delightful sections in which all the instruments playfully dance in imitation of one other and bring the whole work to a captivating conclusion.
Trio ‘Pathétique’ in D minor Glinka (1804-1857)
Scherzo & Trio (Vivacissimo and Meno mosso)
Allegro con Spirito
Mikhail Glinka grew up in St Petersburg and, though passionately interested in the folk music of his native Russia, he studied also in Italy and in Germany. This Trio Pathétique, composed in 1832 during a visit to Milan, was written for a performance with the composer himself at the piano. Not only was Glinka reportedly unwell at the time of the Trio’s composition, but he was also apparently suffering a period of grief over an undisclosed love affair. On the original score of this work he wrote: ‘I know love only by the sorrow that it brings!’
Originally composed for clarinet, bassoon and piano, the later version, employing the alternative use of the cello, gives to the work a certain emotional depth and colour which is often preferred by many music lovers. This has perhaps helped to ensure its current rightful place amongst the piano trio repertoire.
As with the Beethoven Trio, this four-movement work opens with a bold statement on all the instruments in unison. But the lyricism which follows, and indeed pervades the whole work, may well be influenced by the Italian romantic musical culture of the period, which the young Glinka clearly found congenial to him.
If the first movement is lyrical and romantic, the second movement (Scherzo) is a tour de force - with the piano part abounding in thrilling quaver passages! However, the more peaceful middle section - Trio (Meno mosso), opens with a strikingly beautiful cello solo in a relaxed and peaceful contrast to the repeated Scherzo section which concludes the movement.
The word that comes to mind when listening to this short third movement (Largo) is ‘operatic’. Again, did the young composer absorb something deeply influential in the Milanese culture during his stay in that beautiful city? The long opening ‘soprano’ aria on the clarinet, answered immediately by the ‘baritone’ voice of the cello, leads us inevitably to a concluding duet where the piano contributes an almost ‘orchestral’ role. In many ways, this highly engaging slow movement is reminiscent of that composed in a trio written slightly earlier for yet another slightly unfamiliar combination of instruments - that for flute, cello and piano by Carl von Weber.
The short Finale section is a brief final flourish which brings this truly entertaining work to an enjoyable culmination.
Trio in A minor op.114 Brahms (1833-1897)
Brahms’s much loved Quintet for clarinet and string quartet, and the two clarinet Sonatas (sometimes also performed on the viola), were all composed for a famous clarinettist of the day - Richard Mϋhlfeld. All these works stem from Brahms’ mature period and, together with his later piano works and string quartets, contain some of the composer’s finest and most appealing work.
Brahms clearly loved the mellowness of tone and rich variety of musical colour for which Mϋhlfeld was particularly famous as a clarinettist. It is these very qualities that to endear these works to both audiences and performers to this day. Brahms even wrote to Clara Schumann, ‘One cannot play the clarinet more beautifully than Mr Mϋhlfeld does.’ With the 58 year old composer at the piano, the Trio in A minor was first performed, along with the Clarinet Quintet, on 24th November 1891. Both works were rapturously received.
The four movements of this Trio display a wide variety of mood and emotion. The melancholy atmosphere that pervades the first movement contains an opening theme which some musicians have suggested may originally have been the basis of a theme for Brahms’ unwritten fifth symphony.
The second movement Adagio glows with lyrical warmth, while the third Andante Grazioso is a graceful Waltz. The brilliant final Allegro varies constantly in mood between reflective passages and fiery excitement.
To anyone for whom this work has previously been unfamiliar, I sincerely hope that it may be an encouragement to re-discover some of Brahms’ later chamber music, since this period of his life contains a true wealth of music to enjoy.