Another great release from this dedicated husband and wife duo.
“Double Concertos for Violin and Clarinet” = RICHARD MILLS: Duo Concertante; STEPHEN CHATMAN: Concerto for Clarinet, Violin and Orch.; PAUL CHIHARA: Love Music: Concerto for Violin, Clarinet and Orch.; THOMAS CHRISTIAN DAVID: Sonate for Clarinet and Violin – Walter Verdehr, v./Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, clarinet/Taipei Sym. Orch./Richard Mills/Las Cruces Sym./ Lonnie Klein/ Slovak Radio Orch./Kirk Trevor – Crystal CD973, 71:29 (9/08/16) ****:
Walter Verdehr and Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr have performed as the founding members of the Verdehr Trio (using two or three amazing pianists) over the span of fifty-plus years. I read that they only recently retired from public performance but during this time they commissioned and recorded well over one hundred works for this combination. They also have given us recordings of these works under the amazingly comprehensive collection, “The Making of a Medium.” As a clarinetist, I am both amazed and grateful for their contribution for I have always found the combination of clarinet, violin a rewarding one but – in some ways – not as richly populated as the trio genre comprised of clarinet, cello and piano. In fact, for many years the best known works in the trio with violin realm were those by Bartok and Khatchaturian; wonderful and important though they are.
Both the present disc as well as the Verdehrs’ volume fifteen in the ‘MM’ series (with works by William Wallace, Dinos Constaninides and James Niblock) offer not trio repertoire but double concertos for violin, clarinet and orchestra – except for the unaccompanied duo by the Austrian composer Thomas Christian David.
This is a very rewarding disc and of the three concertos presented here I have only heard the Paul Chihara work once before. Chihara is a very skilled and accessible composer with a gift for melody and attractively lush orchestration. The Seattle resident also has an impressive resume in film music. His lovely yet exciting Love Music was composed in 2008 on commission from Michigan State University for the Verdehrs.
Australian composer Richard Mills’ Duo Concertante is actually my favorite work on this program. Based mainly on an opening motive which, in turn, is based on the call of the Australian Magpie; this is a simply lovely work; in particular the middle Lento calmo.
The Concerto of Canadian composer Stephen Chatman was another pleasant surprise for me. I had heard of Chatman before but I do not believe I have heard other works of his. The movement titles quite accurately reflect the very buoyant and reflective nature of this four movement piece. The titles themselves are taken from texts by Walt Whitman and are used by Chatman to give us a work that uplifts as well as brings solace in many ways. This is another highly impressive work.
The set concludes with the unaccompanied Sonate for Klarinette und Violine by Thomas Christian David (son of composer Johann Nepomuk David.) This is mainly an impressive technical show for the two players which I did not dislike and, yet, it did not do much for me compared to the three concertos.
The Verdehrs individually and as a pair have been wonderful players with a genuine symbiosis for a long time now. Their greatest contribution remains the multitude of works commissioned and written for them. This disc contains some of the best and I should think that any clarinetist, violinist and lover of discovery would want to hear this.