March 16, 2022: Chamber Music Trifecta, Part I

Standing ovation for Annie Chalex Boyle, violin, Doug Storey, clarinet and Daniel Del Pino, piano

Call it an embarrassment of riches! Three exceptional chamber music concerts: two by Chamber Music Amarillo and one by the renowned Harrington String Quartet, in as many weeks, is a phenomenon of which few fine arts centers in the country can boast. But in this cultural and aesthetic matter, the High Plains owns bragging rights.

It was the writer’s intention to combine all three reviews. That quickly became impossible for reasons that the reader will soon understand.

On February 12, Chamber Music Amarillo, David Palmer Artistic Director, sponsored a Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. Artists were Annie Chalex Boyle, violin, Doug Storey, clarinet and Daniel Del Pino, piano.

These artists performed Premiere Rhapsodie by Debussy, Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano by Milhaud, Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano by Schoenfeld, and Sonata for Violin and Piano by Franck.

Debussy, as faculty at the Paris Conservatory, was “requested” to compose music for clarinet juries, Premiere Rhapsodie being one of the pieces. There is no record of students’ reactions to the “privilege” of performing original compositions by one of the world’s preeminent composers in a Pass/Fail exam.

The work impressed as a passionate tone poem, with the first two minutes devoted to virtuosic runs, transitioning to playful arpeggiation.

Darius Milhaud was a prolific composer who created over four hundred works, including ballets and sound tracks for movies and plays. A leading member of the influential Les Six, his career spanned three continents.

He composed Suite as the sound track for an amnesiac French soldier with WWI PTSD. The composer’s stint as embassy secretary in Brazil partially accounts for its eclecticism; witness inclusion of Brazilian dance rhythms, not to mention homage paid to American jazz, which he considered a seminal art form.

Expect the unexpected from Milhaud. In contrast with the first movement, which is infused with Terpsichore, the second is very deliberate, with violin and clarinet giving one another courteous space, like the soldier’s memory keeping itself at distance from the perceptions of reality.

If Milhaud’s Jewish identity influenced his Suite, it was subtle. Not so with Paul Schoenfeld, whose Trio resonates with melodies of the Shtetl. In face, the second movement, March, sounds like a slow slog through a bog accompanied by a Klezmer whine.

Dr. Doug Storey on clarinet not only embraced, but embellished the Hassidic sense of music as religious rapture, doing credit not only to Schoenfeld, but an entire Easter European culture.

Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano is too much of a good thing, like truffles and foie gras with Belgian chocolates washed down with a Grand Cru Cabernet. Originally written as a wedding gift for a friend, the turmoil of the work makes one question the composer’s nuptial concepts.

The Allegro, launches with ferocity, which persists, with a few lyrical lapses, until both instruments resolve into a steady state tempest. Towards the end the violin buzzes with a frantic passage like an East Texas mosquito storm on a muggy June night.

As boasted initially, such high culture in the heart of the Comancheria is the norm. So, as we digest the delights of Debussy, Milhaud, Schoenfeld and Franck, we assert with confidence, Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!

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