Contemporary music from the United States
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Contemporary music from the United States

Recital
Equinox Trio
St James Cavalier

The recital presented by the Equinox Trio at the Music Room was dominated by works from the US, the embassy of which in Malta was behind this event. There was just one exception, Charles Camilleri’s Dirge for clarinet and piano, which was composed on 9/11, inspired by the horrific events of that day. Clarinettist Lino Pirotta and pianist Tricia Dawn Williams gave a haunting interpretation of this work which was successfully couched within a typical use of old Mediterranean musical language by Mr Camilleri.

The pianist was involved in every work performed on the evening. She had a truly busy time and sailed on with great accomplishment. Together with Lino Pirotta and the other member of the trio, violinist Tatjana Chircop, they started off with a work by Charles Ives. This was a Largo derived from two lost works by that composer. As an ensemble there was still some way to go to produce the right texture, although the complicated rhythmic character of the piece still made it sound interesting.

In the Sonata for violin and piano by Andrew Rudin, the violinist was refreshingly much more assertive. There were some very energetic exchanges between the instruments, including some where the violin, resorting to pizzicato retorts to the piano, sounded rather defiant. Not surprisingly at all because the mood-shift in this work went from one extreme to another and was continuously changing, and that was done with great smoothness.

Very unusual and all the more interesting was Henry Cowell’s Three Irish Legends. This was a tour de force for the pianist who had to cope with things such as cluster notes. The work often sounded mysterious and the pianist often resorted to unusual methods such as sounding clusters using the underside of her left forearm and elbow. Enveloped in a kind of surreal mist and often underscored by an obsessive ostinato rhythm, these legends provide a lot of fantastic imagery which came across pretty effectively.

Ms Dawn Williams’s other solo this evening could not have been more contrasting, more so as it was a 1948 work by John Cage which is far from what one usually associates with this composer’s later and better-known works. In a Landscape could not be more accessible than it is, having a dream-like character and very serene.

It also came in contrast with the two works between which it was sandwiched. One was Scott McAllister’s X (1969), a work in three movements for clarinet and piano. It tests the technical limits of both performers especially the clarinet, the range of which is exploited to the widest possible. Some of the effects were wildly startling, all the more for the way they contrasted with quieter moments. Climaxes were finely wrought and Mr Pirotta’s was excitingly outstanding and very much a virtuoso. The other work, Copland’s Ukulele Serenade (1928) was a pleasantly-accomplished performance which was breezy, refreshing and rather jazzy.

The recital closed with Paul D. Sayre’s Trio. Like many before him Sayre’s interest in the three instruments’ sonorous possibilities enabled him to use and develop them within an adaptation of sonata form to suit his ideas and material. There was no indication whether this was meant to be a one-movement work. After a longish section, which built up to a very fine climax, there was a bit of a long pause and the work proceeded at a slower tempo. Then it seemed to end all too briefly and in an indeterminate manner.

The very appreciative audience ended up getting a welcome encore, Karl Fiorini’s arrangement of Gershwin’s Summertime.

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