Transfigured: Transcribed

Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert featured four works transcribed for different combinations of instruments than the composer originally intended.  First up was Berg’s Adagio for violin, clarinet and piano.  This is from the Kammerkonzert originally scored for violin, piano and thirteen assorted wind instruments.  Unsurprisingly it doesn’t get played often in that arrangement.  It’s pretty typical second Vienna school; twelve tone but quite accessible and very pleasant to listen to.  It was expertly played by Serouj Kradjian (piano), David Hetherington (cello) and Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet).

amicirecordingsNext up were seven folk song melodies originally transcribed by Béla Bartók for piano and here given by cello and violin.  They are slight pieces though played with great bravura by Hetherington and guest Yehonatan Berick.  I think the problem here is that once a central European folk tune (maybe any folk tune) has been locked in the tonal straightjacket of a piano arrangement it will never ver regain its full vitality.

Closing out the first half was the Brahms violin sonata transcribed for clarinet.  It’s an interesting experiment.  It works better on the the livelier parts of the score, notably the second movement vivace but somehow the clarinet seems to lack the plangent qualities of the violin in the more meditative sections.

The second half featured the main event; Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht transcribed for violin, cello and piano.  I don’t think I have ever heard the piece played as originally scored (2 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos) but I am quite familiar with it in the more commonly heard arrangement for string orchestra.  The piano arrangement seems to make the piece more robust.  That seems a strange thing to say about reduced forces but somehow strings alone have a febrile quality that is lost with the fuller sound of the piano.  It’s not inferior but it is surprisingly different.

The concert took place in the 300 or so seat Mazzoleni Hall at the royal Conservatory.  It’s a new space to me but seems ideal for chamber recitals and probably for vocal music too.  It seems to have a cleaner acoustic than the similarly sized Glenn Gould Studio.

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