Music Review: Verdehr Trio at Phillips Collection

Monday, March 9, 2009; 6:21 PM

The Verdehr Trio made one of its regular semiyearly visits to the Phillips Collection on Sunday bringing with it two of the almost 200 pieces for violin, clarinet and piano it's commissioned over the years, one, a world's premiere, and both, attractive, coherent and entertaining.

The premiere was of Russell Platt's "Parlor Music" Op. 22, a three-movement set of fantasies with a first movement "Outdoor Overture" full of contrasting musical ideas, a lyrical second-movement "Song Without Words" and a playful finale that explores a colorful palette of textures and spacing. This is music with an accessible architectural road map that leads light-handedly through a rich emotional journey. Platt, music editor of the New Yorker, was on hand to introduce his piece.

David Liptak's "Commedia" was the other commissioned work on the program, a set of musical portraits of the antics of the 16th century Comedia dell'Arte comic figures Harlequin and Columbine, Pierrot, Pulcinella and Scaramouche. Liptak, fluent in the language of violin-clarinet sonorities, has crafted vivid images while avoiding the lure of the caricature and has done this with energy and a sense of humor.

Two somber pieces by Max Bruch and a pair of exuberant "Romances" by Fanny Mendelssohn (Felix's sister) in arrangements by Armand Russell filled out the short program.

Despite the fact that violinist Walter Verdehr's bowing tended to sound hesitant and constrained, the trio ensemble was beautifully balanced. Clarinetist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr played with both power and wit, and pianist Silvia Roederer knew just when to emerge from the background to take over.

-- Joan Reinthaler

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