Chamber Music Media Review Print



Middle Voices: Chamber Music for Clarinet and Viola

November 12, 2003 - Hillsborough, NC:


Kelly Burke, clarinet, & Scott Rawls, viola, with Mark Moliterno, baritone, & Arthur Tollefson & Melissa Rose, pianos. Centaur CRC 2626 DDD (©2002) (70:40) $15.99, available directly from the company at http://www.centaurrecords.com/.

This CD will reward the open-minded and openhearted music lover with unexpected delights. The June 2, 2002, Duke Summer Festival of Music concert was unusual in that the musicians appearing under the name of the Mallarmé Chamber Players were not Triangle regulars. Instead, they were Triad musicians connected with UNC Greensboro and guests. The unexpected jewel was Rebecca Clarke's Andante, Allegro & Pastorale for clarinet and viola, played by Greensboro Symphony principals Kelley Burke and Scott Rawls. Clarke was a pioneer in two fields - as a viola player as well as a composer. A google search will turn up a society dedicated to the composer. This work under discussion was composed in New York City in 1941 but remained unpublished until 2000, when the Oxford University Press issued it. The composer explores what she termed "mirror writing" where the instruments sometimes cross each other and exchange parts. A melancholy prelude is followed by a toccata-like allegro movement that ends with an extended fugato section on a fleet, arpeggiated subject. The subdued atmosphere returns in the Pastorale, fading away at the end. What a combination of timbres and colors! It is gorgeous.

This Centaur CD, produced by Evan Richey and engineered by Dennis Hopson, captures much of the program heard at Duke in fine sounding recordings made between June-December 2000 in the UNCG School of Music Recital Hall.

The program includes Dennis Riley's Trio "The Household Muses" (1999), composed for violist Scott Rawls. He is joined by Burke and Tollefson in a remarkably winning composition. It is as interesting, musically, as much of the piano trio literature, and each of the four movements has its attractions. Most memorable is the extended Lento espressivo, with two long and lovely duos, the first featuring Rawls' plangent viola singing above stark piano chords, and the second, Burke's rich clarinet melody, accompanied by viola pizzicatos. This is the finest trio for this combination that I have ever heard.

Better known are the elegant vocal works of the Boston Classicist, Charles Martin Loeffler. One of his finest scores is Rapsodies pour voix, clarinette, alto et piano (1898), which were never publicly performed until quite recently. Baritone Mark Moliterno is joined by Burke, Rawls, and pianist Arthur Tollefson in a mellow and glowing performance that is well balanced with clear diction.

Craige Walsh writes acoustic and electro-acoustic music, and his "Schism" (2000) explores various ensemble and textural possibilities of a duo. Burke and Rawls reveal the extreme ranges and broad colors of their instruments in this most adventuresome work.

Triangle music lovers will recall the artistic residency of J. Mark Scearce. His "Magritte Variations" (2000) was commissioned by and dedicated to Kelly Burke. It is scored for clarinet, viola, piano and baritone; the text is by poet Joseph Stanton. Its style is tonal, and it is openly romantic in expressive content. Burke. Rawls, and Moliterno are joined by pianist Melissa Rose. The text is very clearly enunciated.