Lucky attendees partook of a free cultural feast the afternoon of November 20 in the Fine Arts Recital Hall, which featured violist Vesselin Todorov, joined by pianist Jessica Osborn, Helen Blackburn, flute and Mina Lavcheva, violin.
Todorov, longtime member of the Harrington String Quartet and member of the university’s music faculty, figured in all three pieces: Sonata for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke; Piano Trio in F-sharp minor by Robert Fuchs; and Prelude, Recitatif et Variations by Maurice Durufle.
British-American composer Rebecca Clarke, viola virtuoso, composer, and one of the first female members of a professional orchestra, has a compelling biography. We are richer for her few compositions, though poorer for her sporadic output.
Her Sonata for Viola and Piano, tied for first in a competition out of 72 entrants, but many of the judges decided that Clarke was a pen name for the declared winner, Swiss composer Ernest Bloch, as no woman could compose such a work! The fight continues……
The premier at Berkshire was well-received, and marks the beginning of a three-year compositional peak, after which Clarke composed little.
The Impetuoso opens with the viola singing a lyrical spring aria as the piano, whose part is of equal difficulty, both compliments and encourages.
Todorov applied a mute for the Vivace, which his Harrington fellows insisted was the composer’s intent. The resulting mellowness was punctuated by frequent pizzicatos, racing towards an abrupt conclusion.
The Adagio is both evocative and sensual, restating themes from the first movement with Todorov demonstrating the full range of his instrument’s voice.
Thanks Vesco for introducing us to Rebecca Clarke. Your performance was a true credit to her composition.
The Austrian composer Robert Fuchs was a composer and professor of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory. His piano trios, though highly-regarded, were never popular because the composer didn’t market them well.
His Trio in F sharp minor for piano, violin and viola was one of his last works.
The Allegro presents a dark, pensive quality with a ferocious conclusion.
The Andante grazioso takes a step back with the strings almost taunting one another contrapuntally.
The Allegretto scherzando has a repetitive triadal sequence, two short and one long, that is echoed in all three instruments, which happily ends with a whimsical fillip.
Any levity is lost in the Allegro giusto, which, except for wistful interludes, exerts a dark determination throughout.
Perhaps the composer was lamenting the demise of empire, and, with the gift/curse of artistic prescience, the rise of Fascism. A longer life would have seen his worst fears realized.
The final work on the program, Prelude, Recitatif et Variations by Maurice Durufle, played by a flute, piano and viola trio. This work, composed in 1928, was prior to his lifetime posting as organist at St. Etienne du Mont and his teaching position at the Paris Conservatory.
The short, approximately eleven minute work, opens with a piano dirge followed by a brooding, evocative viola. The flute, initially light, folds into the melancholic mood of the other instruments.
A sequence of flute statements follows, with viola responses, reflecting the composers penchant for plainsong, which he grew up singing in the Rouen cathedral choir. Vigorous piano arpeggios and viola pizzicatos come to a sudden stop, with the new theme turning dark until the pace builds to the finale.
What a treat, hearing what amounted to a world-class performance! I only wish that more knew about this event, and that a little biographical information could have been included about the artists.
That we in the heart of Cowboy Country can hear chamber works by Clarke, Fuchs and Durufle, while gridiron mayhem still rages, is testimony to the fact that the arts, after an absence of a year and a half, are indeed back!
On this Thanksgiving Day, along with so much else, we can be thankful for the wonderful anomaly here on the High Plains of a truly vibrant, national-class caliber of the fine arts.
That’s why, once again, and in a true holiday spirit, we can say:
Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!