In November, a packed Fratry hall was treated to an evening of musical story-telling by the wonderful musicians who are Trio Meister Raro – Robert Plane (clarinet) Rachel Roberts (viola) and Tim Horton (piano).
The name Meister Raro is taken from Robert Schumann who created pen names to describe different aspects of his personality: the exuberant and extroverted Florestan, the introverted poet Eusebius, and Meister Raro himself, the wise, observant mediator between the other two opposing characters.
But before entering the fantasy world of Robert Schumann, the trio opened with another German Romantic – Max Bruch. A selection from his 8 Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano, Op 83, demonstrated beautifully how the warm, mellow voices of all three instruments blend so well together.
It was as if the audience were listening to an intimate conversation between two old friends represented by the viola and clarinet, with a third – the piano – commenting in the background.
The next piece, in dramatic contrast, was Gyorgy Kurtag’s Hommage a Robert Schumann Op 15d. Written in 1990, it is an extraordinarily complex set of six pieces referencing Schumann’s three pen names, as well as reflecting aspects of his compositional traits. Not that this is a lyrical or romantic piece, rather, more of an experimental soundworld that stretches the capacities of all three instruments and all three performers to their limits. Not an easy piece to understand, especially on first hearing, nevertheless the audience could appreciate the passion with which it was performed, as well as feeling the thrill of watching the musicians skilfully mastering the technical difficulties and bringing out the full force of the drama and emotion.
Following this was a piece by Robert Schumann, the master story-teller himself, with a beautiful performance of his Marchenbilder (Fairy tale Pictures) Op 113, for viola and piano. The two instruments vividly conjured up the story-book world of Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltsken, with moments of breath-taking speed as if of wild horses galloping, then with vigorous stamping fairy dances and finally the sweet lyricism of a happy ending.
After the interval came the story of a woman composer struggling to make her mark on the musical world. Rebecca Clarke wrote her trio Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale in 1942, but it was not published until 2000. During her lifetime, works published under her own name were dismissed by the critics while work published under the male pseudonym of Anthony Trent were well received. It was something of a happy ending, then, to hear this work performed under her own name,
the musicians brilliantly bringing out all its beauty, joy, and vibrant colours.
The evening concluded with a delightful performance of Mozart’s Trio for clarinet, viola and piano K 498, “Kegelstatt” – ending where the story effectively began, Mozart being the founding father of this particular trio of instruments.
From Mozart to Kurtag, with everything in between – where will the story take us next?
The incredible range and dynamism of the Trio Meister Raro suggests that there are seemingly endless possibilities for these remarkable instruments in the hands of these three accomplished and skilful performers.