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Verdehr Trio DVDs

American Universities have made a notable contribution to the recorded repertoire in areas where regular record labels rarely venture. We have explored those emanating from Cornell University (Malcolm Bilson and colleagues), Duquesne University, Pittsburgh (Barbara Nissman) and now Michigan State University (The Verdehr Trio). Also must be mentioned the Swedish Duo Gelland, two violins, championed by Nosag records to their great credit.

I had missed the Verdehrs appearance on London's South Bank in 2005 and at Trinity College of Music last November.

Our belated interest in violin/clarinet/piano trios was aroused by a splendid recent concert by the Eidos Trio at Wigmore Hall, in my review of which I assumed that "there was no encore only because there was nothing else left for them to play" (rather as the previous week the Guardian's reviewer "scarcely knew there was enough cello octet repertoire to fill a concert, let alone justify the formation of a professional chamber group").

How wrong we both were! Google search revealed how The Verdehr Trio had "made a medium", with a repertoire of some 200 works for violin, clarinet & piano, many of them specially commissioned; "they are still coming in" [WV].

Founded by Walter Verdehr and his wife Elsa, their pianists have included Gary Kirkpatrick, Kathryn Brown and, since 1998, Silvia Roederer [L].

Numerous recordings are listed at http://www.verdehr.com/recordings.htm and we have been sent a few of their CDs and DVDs.

In the DVD Making of a Medium Video Series Part I [WKAR TV - the Michigan State PBS Station, 1990-93 - released 2010] the name of the Scottish/American Thea Musgrave caught my attention, as she has just made a rare visit to Wigmore Hall for a world premiere of a work featuring clarinet.

Her Pierrot for the Verdehrs, with 3 dancers represented by the three instruments, is a high spot of this DVD, which consists of a series of TV programmes each devoted to a particular work by a different composer, with interviews and introductions from all involved.

Amongst the others featured in this double-DVD release, which I recommend as a good starter, the great Gunther Schuller talks of the vagaries of reputations, eclipse and possible posthumous revivals, and the near complete disapearance of arts programmes from USA TV, depriving a generation of the chance to experience even Beethoven, expresses enormous appreciation for the work of the Verdehrs and the inclusion of his trio by them.

These really are TV programmes of which one can be envious. British TV has had nothing comparable since David Munrow's 1976 series, recently made available on DVD. Others of the Verdehr DVDs are not "time constrained" by TV schedules and allow for greater depth in exploring the chosen composers.

2012 will be the 40th anniversary of the Verdehr Trio - a "love-child " of Elsa and Walter's marriage in 1971. More DVDs and CDs are promised in the very near future, & we look forward to bringing them to the attention of our readers.

Meanwhile, a selection of the Verdehr Trio's numerous CDs has been reviewed on MusicWeb by Rob Barnett & my namesake Jonathan Woolf.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Jolas & Manoury

This DVD, received July 2011 together with another devoted to Autsralian composer Peter Sculthorpe, is problematc, because I cannot think that many readers will be interested in both these composers.

Betsy Jolas is a delight to meet as is her trio to hear. She makes no bones about starting to think about the Vedehr commission by considering the Bartok archetype for this combination, and she talks interestingly about her life and eclectic influences, from earliest music to rap. Her piece is accessible and a pleasure to hear; the filming and presentation is better than on some earlier volumes in this huge collection.

Phillipe Manoury (b 1952) is a product of the Stockhausen/Boulez era and has been engaged on live electronics research at Ircam. His English is hesitant and his trio listenable to, but the interview off-putting to the ordinary music lover. Nonetheless, this series earns a prominent place in all musical academic libraries.