Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Singular Works by Singular Composers

Brahms wrote one Trio for Natural Horn, Violin, and Piano.  None of his other chamber works come even close to this one in terms of pitch specificity.  It is unique in every respect.  This uniqueness accounts for its tempos, its depth, its humor.

It occurs to me that players do not know what to do with uniqueness, so they shy away from it.  Accepting it, dealing with it would, after all, require matching that quality to some degree.  Better to pretend that it doesn't exist by playing the piece with modern French horn so that, superficially at least, it resembles other trios by Brahms.  The trouble is that this doesn't work.  It only leads people down the fast path.

I know a composer who is fascinated with sound in very much a Brahmsian way: Ursula Mamlok.  She composed a cycle of pieces for the chamber ensemble I founded in the 1980's, in fact for our debut recital in 1986 she wrote Alariana, scored for violin, recorders, clarinet, bassoon, cello - a most unlikely combination.  To write this she had many sessions together with the recorder player, as it was the first time she had composed for this instrument.

Well-meaning scholars who want to further her reputation as a serious composer suppress this work, entirely without justification except that it is not mainstream.

Well, I am not mainstream.  Are you?