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Name of Work

Bartók, Béla (1881-1945)
Contrasts for violin, clarinet, piano (2007)

Verbunkos (Recruiting Dance)
Piheno (Relaxation)
Sebes (Fast Dances)


Mar 18, 2007

Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
James Giles, Piano

Mar 19, 2007

Larry Combs, Clarinet
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
James Giles, Piano

BARTÓK-Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano

Composed in 1938

The title Contrasts has two meanings in the context of Bartók's trio. First, it refers to the divergence between the dancing moods of the outer movements and the serenity of the middle one, which Szigeti referred to as a night piece and which Bartók called simply Relaxation. Secondly, the timbres of each of the three instruments are quite different, and Bartók exploits this continually, employing the piano's versatility in harmonic richness and percussive attack, the biting tones of the clarinet, and the violin's associations with both singing and dancing. A Verbunkos is a traditional Hungarian dance, with slow and fast tempos contrasted. It was performed in the 18th century by soldiers newly recruited into the army of imperial Austria, as a kind of ritualistic farewell to their native villages, and usually accompanied by gypsy violinists, though this Verbunkos ends with a short clarinet cadenza. In this opening movement it is easy to hear Bartók's own farewell to his native land, happy memories colliding with regrets and apprehensions. The middle movement is based on a violin-clarinet dialogue supported by intricate figurations on the piano. Its moody invocations of night are colored with a blues-y tone that recalls Goodman's jazz-band roots. The rapid, dancing finale takes us back to Hungary with its gypsy-flavored themes. This is a virtuosic movement for all three players, with special dexterity required by the violinist, who needs two instruments. One, used at the beginning, is mistuned, with the top (E) string lowered by a half-tone and the bottom (G) string raised by a half-tone. The other violin, tuned normally, stands in readiness for the balance of the movement. Since a violin is usually tuned in ascending intervals of perfect fifths – G, D, A, E – the mis-tuning creates diminished-fifth (or augmented-fourth) relationships among the open strings. The diminished fifth, also known as the tritone, is a dominant interval in much of Bartók's music, and his biographer and fellow composer Halsey Stevens has pointed out that tritones permeate Contrasts both melodically and harmonically – "present," he says, "in almost every formation."

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance date: March 18& 19, 2007

CCM first performed this work at a special concert on October 29, 1986 at the home of Susan and Lewis Manilow and most recently at the June 8, 2003 Composer Perspectives concert.

Performance Audio

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