Thursday, October 23rd, 2003, 12:30pm
Church Deer Park
1570 Yonge Street, Toronto
part of Noonday
Chamber Concert Series
Admission: freewill offering
Ellen Meyer, piano
Stephen Fox, clarinet
Laura Jones, cello
Opp. 18 & 24
Trio in D
Any sweetness in the music of Paul Juon (1872-1940)
might have been inherited from his grandfather, a confectioner from the
eastern part of Switzerland who emigrated to Russia in the early 19th century.
Born and raised in Moscow, Juon studied first at the Moscow Conservatory
before moving to Berlin, where he lived until 1934 as a composer and professor
of composition at the Berlin Hochschule. On retirement he returned
to his family roots (and escaped WWII) by moving to Switzerland.
Juon’s music - which enjoyed a spell of international
popularity in the 1920s but is now largely forgotten - is frequently categorized
as “German in structure and Russian in character”, a reasonable if not
universally correct generalization. The epithet “the Russian Brahms”
is not very apt and does not do justice to Juon’s innovation and range
of musical styles. One commentator has written: “Juon’s music
is not easily penetrated… His remarkable sense of form is the first
of his characteristics… The second lies in his melodic talent; here
he must be grateful to the masters of Russian folk music. Themes
of actual Russian origin give all of his music an extraordinary charm…
Further, his music is characterized by a remarkable rhythmic power.”
In a body of music ranging from very traditional to more
adventurous, and from lightweight to dark and serious, the Trio-Miniaturen
presented here are definitely at the lighter end of the scale. Dating
from around 1910, they are arrangements by Juon of some of his short piano
pieces, Opp. 18 and 24. Almost salon music in style, they still show
Juon’s quirkiness in their details, and a quality of composition which
belies their modest scale.
Though presenting little-known music is standard practice
for the Riverdale Ensemble, the Trio in D for clarinet, cello
and piano by John Ireland (1879-1962) marks the first time that
we have had the honour to resurrect a major work from musty museum purgatory
where it has lain for nearly nine decades.
Composed in 1912-13, the Trio was performed in Ireland's
lifetime only once, at Steinway Hall in London in June 1914. The
typically self-critical Ireland was not satisfied, and he reworked the
Trio by transposing it into E and replacing the clarinet with a violin;
in this form it again received just one performance, the following year.
The reason for the change of instruments is not recorded, but perhaps lack
of confidence in handling the clarinet was a part of it; signs of this
are a low Eb, unplayable on a standard clarinet, in the first movement,
and several uncomfortably high passages. (The reason cannot have
been lack of esteem for the clarinet, as evidenced by the Sextet presented
tonight and his monumental Fantasy Sonata of 1943). Finally, more
than two decades later, material from the piece - radically altered, and
with an entirely new slow movement - was used as a basis for Ireland’s
Piano Trio No. 3 in E, published in 1938.
Recreating the Trio in its ancestral form has involved
some detective work and a helping of informed extrapolation, starting with
the incomplete manuscript score in the British Library in London.
The score has the first and fourth movements mostly intact, so apart from
surmising the last couple of bars of the first movement, the main challenge
with them was to decipher cuts, questionable notes and numerous barely
legible editorial instructions. The slow movement is present but
regrettably is from the 1915 version, for violin; this then needed to be
transposed and the upper part readapted for clarinet. Finally, the
scherzo is represented by only two surviving score pages, but reconstructing
it from the 1938 edition - incorporating the two original pages at the
appropriate point - was ironically the least problematic part of the process.
By 1912 Ireland had found his voice as a composer, so
the Trio in many places sounds as one would expect his work to sound.
At times, though, his experimenting with compositional technique is apparent;
the third movement, for example, with its non-functional piano harmonies
over a cello ostinato, could have been written by some British composers
of the post-WWII generation. Though the moods in the Trio are varied,
there is a strong presence of the martial element that tended to pervade
Ireland’s works written in wartime and in the years when war threatened;
it is probably not a coincidence that the Trio, composed when the First
World War was in the air, was revived on the eve of the Second.
Pending the approval of the John Ireland Trust, the Trio
is scheduled for publication next year by June Emerson in the U.K.
As the only piece for this standard instrumental combination to be found
in the rich and unique genre of British late Romantic music, it should
become a significant addition to the repertoire.