It does seem one of classical music’s oddities that a trio made of up of three of the most prominent and recognisable instruments doesn’t have a long and illustrious repertoire to draw on. You would imagine that over the years, two of the melodic superstars of the orchestra would have a dazzling and spectacular catalogue of pieces written for them to play together, all duly accompanied by the chamber music stalwart, the piano. But it isn’t so. There are pieces for this trio, but the names of composers willing to undertake this unusual task run to the likes of Melanie Bonis, Nina Rota, and Joseph Suk – all fine composers in their own right, but not household names by any stretch. Even when you stumble across a trio by the likes of Shostakovich, it ends up being an arrangement of a piece for different instruments. And therein lies the problem and the challenge for performers, but also the genesis of this wonderful concert from three amazing chamber music players in the heart of Inverurie on a fine April night.
Lana Trotovšek (Violin) and Maria Canyigueral (Piano) are no strangers to the audiences of Inverurie Music, having played for the good people of the Garioch as recently as March last year, and it appeared they enjoyed it so much they decided to return a year later, with an added flautist for good measure. The lack of recognisable repertoire for the trio became the stimulus for this concert: arranging existing pieces for the group, to shine a light on these extant works, but also to bring a new way of understanding them in this transformed guise. This novel idea created an interesting and exciting programme that featured four works, all arrangements made either by flautist Boris Bizjak or by the composers themselves and created a different way of experiencing some colourful repertoire.
The concert began with one of the more necessary arrangements, Schubert’s Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano in A minor, D821. This posthumous piece was initially written (as the title suggests) for the arpeggione, a six-stringed bowed guitar also known as the ‘Guitarre d’amour’ and it was dedicated to Vincenz Schuster, the only known professional arpeggione player. The instrument became obsolete after around 10 years, some years before the sonata was published in 1871 and the work has had a life from that moment on purely as an arrangement. The piece worked just as well for flute as for the more common arrangements of cello or viola, with some fine playing from Bizjak in the more tender moments and the effervescent finale.
The next item was the first of two pieces on the programme by Prokofiev, a composer Trotovšek and Canyigueral featured in their last visit to Aberdeenshire in March last year. The Sonata for Two Violins (1932), here arranged for flute and violin by the studious Bizjak (he must also enjoy giving concerts where he doesn’t have to make his own repertoire…) is a spiky, dramatic piece overflowing with ideas and gestures with the composer often having to reel in his ambition in order for the work to have any coherence. It is a short journey, but one full of hazards, wrong turns, and dead ends, but ultimately one worth taking, nonetheless. Although the arrangement might have lacked some of the ‘bite’ of the original, it still made for a powerful end to the first half of the concert.
The only piece for the full ensemble was local composer John Hearne’s Six Tableaux (in search of titles), a piece with an interesting history of its own which only added to the theme of this concert. Originally written in 2007 as a set of piano pieces entitled Pictograms, Hearne later added an obligato trumpet part to make the work the tableaux of the title. Shortly after this, the piece took on another iteration to its current form with the trumpet now being replaced by flute and violin, which was presented in this concert. A significant piece, full of invention and charm, it asked much of the players but in doing so rewarded the audience with a dark-hued, but rhapsodic work bursting with emotion and character.
The final piece was the highlight of the concert, Prokofiev’s Sonata for Flute and Piano (1942), here arranged for violin and piano by the composer himself. A broadly neoclassical piece, it still had all the colours and hallmarks of Prokofiev’s finest works, especially the virtuosic finale that pushed the players to their limits and brought rapturous applause from the audience. It was a shame that the final piece couldn’t have been for the whole trio, but a short encore that reprised one of Hearne’s tableaux at least scratched that itch.
It is an oddity that there isn’t more repertoire for this trio, but who knows – with advocates as good as these three, maybe a new set of pieces will appear in the not-too-distant future.
©Phillip A Cooke