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Verdehr Trio at the Phillips Collection

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • November 18, 2008


he Verdehr Trio has become a perennial favorite at the Phillips Collection, where twice a year it presents new works -- which it has usually commissioned -- for its unusual combination of clarinet, piano and violin. The trio continued that tradition Sunday afternoon, dispatching a Mozart divertimento as an appetizer but quickly settling down to some intriguing new works written for it in the past few years.

Roberto SierraRick Sowash composed his "Memories of Corsica" for the Verdehr in 2007, and it's an engaging, colorful tone poem in the time-honored genre of musical travelogue. Opening with a depiction of the island's shimmering heat and empty villages, it quickly turns light and dancelike in the "Aromatic Breezes" section and closes with a forceful and even jaunty movement, full of exuberance and laughter.

The title of Roberto Sierra's 2008 "Recordando una Melodia Olvidada" translates as "Remembering a Forgotten Melody," so perhaps it was fitting that clarinetist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr misplaced her music and had to rush offstage to find it. But with its subtle, beautifully observed perception of memory and its sudden shifts of perspective and time, it was a fascinating work, with the delirious intensity of a dream.

The Verdehr played, as always, with a fine combination of intellectual rigor and satisfying physicality and closed with yet another original commission, Bright Sheng's 2001 "Tibetan Dance." Interweaving Chinese, Tibetan and Western elements, it embodies Sheng's elegant postmodernist approach, and opens with a serene and ruminating prelude before moving into a minimalist love song and exploding into life in the final "Tibetan Dance" movement. Painted in brash, physical strokes, with pianist and violinist getting percussion sounds out of their instruments, it builds into a furious explosion of color -- a fascinating work, beautifully performed.

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 02:06PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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