The Verdehr Trio, “International Connections 2” = Nicolas BACRI: A Smiling Suite; Yang LIQING: Trio; Peter DICKINSON: Celebration Trio; Jonathon HARVEY: Clarinet Trio; Wolfram WAGNER: Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano; Kam Kee YONG: And the Fallen Petals; Guido Lopez GAVILAN: Como un antiguo bolero; Peter SCULTHORPE: Reef Singing – Walter Veredehr, violin/Elsa Ludwig-Verdehr, clarinet/Silvia Roederer, piano – Crystal Records CD974, 67:08, (3/13/17) ****:
The ‘making of a medium’ shows dedication and history.
The Verdehr Trio has built a nearly four decades rich legacy of commissioning and recording hundreds of new works for the violin and clarinet—husband and wife pair—and piano, in the rich tradition of the iconic works for this combination by Brahms, Khatchaturian and others.
I have heard almost all over their twenty-four CDs, most of which are releases by Crystal Records—which has a nearly six decades long legacy of recorded American music—and have never been disappointed.
A huge part of the success of the Trio lies with the quality of the performances. Walter Verdehr is a superb and sensitive violinist with ample skill, a rich timbre and elegant phrasing. Else Ludwig-Verdehr, clarinetist, is one of the country’s great clarinetists with equally supple technique, a sensitive phrasing and beautiful tone with just the right touch of vibrato in places. The Trio has had several amazing pianists over the years and all of them, including their most recent collaborator, Silvia Roederer, have been highly skilled and very aware of the mood and context of the piano within the works.
On this album, there a number of pleasant surprises. I have heard a fair amount of music by Frenchman Nicolas Bacri and the venerable Australian Peter Sculthorpe before; so I was not surprised to genuinely enjoy Bacri’s elegant and coy Smiling Suite or Sculthorpe’s short but atmospheric Reef Singing.
I was very taken with the dramatic and sweeping Celebration Trio by English composer Peter Dickinson as well as by the Trio by Austrian Wolfram Wagner. All of the works in this collection represent commissions from non-American composers, specifically, hence the label “International Connections 2” Although, it needs to be said that—in my opinion—this is a bit of marketing. Volume 1 was a 2006 release and featured works by American Jennifer Higdon among others and the “International Connections” albums are not the only Verdehr recordings featuring music by non-American composers but all works on all these recordings are very entertaining and worthwhile additions to a very tasteful instrumentation. (As a clarinet player, I have performed many of these works from their output myself and they are all wonderful.)
On this album, I liked all of the works including the brief but evocative And the Fallen Petals by Malaysian Kam Kee Yong as well as the works mentioned. I had heard that the Verdehrs are retired or semi-retired from teaching at Michigan State University as well as from touring performance. Even if this is so, their place in the history of music pedagogy, dedication to the repertoire of their instruments and their place in the ‘best of’ American performers is solidified. I for one remain very impressed and very grateful.