A Clarinet Trio at St Mark’s lunchtime concert: great music making with minor flaws

Bruch: Andante and Allegro con moto, from Eight Pieces, Op.83
Mozart: Trio in E flat, K.498
Schumann: Märchenerzählungen (Fairy Tales), Op.132
Divertimento (Tim Workman, clarinet; Victoria Jaenecke, viola; David Vine, piano)

St Mark’s Church, Lower Hutt

Wednesday 3 October, 12.15pm

An attractive programme of great music, highly competent performers, an acoustically pleasing venue, but they did not add up to a totally satisfying concert.  The first disappointment was the printed programme, which obviously had not been proof-read.  The violist was honoured with joining the family of the great Czech composer, Janacek (minus his diacritical marks); the Mozart trio was catalogued as K.000; there were spelling, punctuation and syntactical errors aplenty.

The first Max Bruch piece was introduced by the superbly mellow tone of Jaenecke’s viola, and the clarinet followed suit.  In contrast, the piano sounded rather muffled, dull and distant.  Perhaps against the sonorous, forward sound of the clarinet, it would have been better to raise the piano lid higher.

The Andante (the first of the Eight Pieces, and written in A minor) was a most attractive, though sombre, work, with splendid interweaving of the parts.  The second piece, in B minor, was faster, and stormy in nature compare with the first; this considerable contrast made them a good pair to perform together.

The Mozart trio again suffered from the piano part not sounding out sufficiently, particularly the treble, except in solo passages for that instrument.  This was especially the case in the sunny allegretto finale, where I found over-pedalling affecting the character of the music.

This fabulous music lacked sparkle, principally because of the dullness of the piano sound.  Tone and expression from the viola and clarinet were very fine, along with excellent phrasing.

Schumann’s four characterful pieces found the balance better, and more piano tone came through, but it still sounded heavy, and stronger in the bass, especially in quicker sections.  Three of the four movements were marked ‘lebhaft’ (lively), while the third piece was slow and sad – and beautifully played.  The instructions of Schumann, implicit in the titles he gave to each piece, were expressed admirably by the performers.

The concert was over-long, due to unnecessarily lengthy spoken introductions to the music.