REVIEWS

METAMORPHOSES clarinet, piano, viola

Wednesday 12 February 2020 at 8pm


Mozart               Clarinet Trio in E flat major, K 498 ‘Kegelstatt

Röntgen            Clarinet Trio

Schumann        Märchenerzählungen, op 132

Françaix            Clarinet Trio

Metamorphoses is made up of British-American clarinettist, Jean Johnson who lives in Edinburgh, Dutch-born violist, Roeland Jagers living in the Netherlands and Crimean-born pianist, Ilona Timchenko who resides in Spain. These players have quickly made a big impact on the international stage since the formation of the group in 2015. Their debut CD ‘Metamorphoses’ was reviewed rapturously by Gramophone, the performances being described as ‘sincere, imaginative and fresh as paint!’ For this concert Ilona Tichenko is replaced by Elena Fischer-Dieskau (granddaughter of the great baritone!).

This celebration of the unique combination of viola and clarinet, with their shared alto/tenor pitches, starts with the piece which began it all – Mozart’s beautiful Kegelstatt (Skittle Alley) trio. Schumann’s ‘Fairy Tales’ were inspired by the Mozart. These two anchor the twentieth-century works – Julius Röntgen’s trio of 1921, with its Brahmsian echoes – and Jean Francaix’s late work which demonstrates his gift for combining striking melodies with fiendish virtuosity.

“Metamorphoses are fantastic, incredibly clever, tight and very polished. Beautiful phrases.” BBC RECORD REVIEW

REVIEW BY Chris Skidmore

An adventurous programme for clarinet trio

Metamorphoses is a clarinet trio comprising British-American clarinetist, Jean Johnson, with Dutch-born violist, Roeland Jagers and, for their current tour, the German pianist, Elena Fischer-Dieskau. At various points in the concert at the King’s Hall on Wednesday it became clear that the group were still getting used to playing together but this did nothing to inhibit the audience’s enjoyment of this varied and adventurous programme.

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The piece that began it all for the clarinet trio – Mozart’s sparkling ‘Kegelstatt’ trio – started off the concert well. The clarinet part, written for Mozart’s friend, Anton Stadler, was the winner here and Jean Johnson created a wonderful sound although it sometimes felt that the viola and piano were holding back a little too much in a piece where the clarinet should really be the first among equals. Balance was restored in the final Rondo where the viola became a true soloist.

No such problems affected the next work, the unfamiliar Trio by Julius Röntgen, where the viola and clarinet had some wonderful unison passages. Here Roeland Jagers excelled, producing a strikingly mysterious sound on muted strings in the second movement. Although Röntgen had experimented with atonality this was a marvellously tuneful work in a familiar idiom, not uninfluenced by Brahms, and was given a warm welcome by the Ilkley audience.

The second half opened with Schumann’s ‘Fairy Tales’, with its mixture of whimsy, mystery and sorrow. The players struck just the right note with especially expressive playing in the third section. The fourth section with its trumpet-like flourishes in the piano part was not quite lively enough for this reviewer but the central section was very affectingly done. The final piece was Jean Françaix’s late Clarinet Trio, a work, as always with this composer, full of melody and spirit but here, particularly in the two fast movements, demanding real virtuosity of the players. Elena Fischer-Dieskau rose to the occasion and with the other players concluded the concert on a high point!

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 CJS

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