The Wright, Lebow, Moss Trio

Jonathan Wright, violin
Roger Lebow, cello
Stephan Moss, piano

Sunday, February 3, 2019, 7 p.m.
Drinkward Recital Hall

A view of Square Gabriel Pierné in Paris shows stone benches that look like open books and cherry blossoms.
Square Gabriel Pierné, Paris. Photo provided by The Wright, Lebow, Moss Trio.


Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, op. 45 (1922)
Agité, de movement et de sentiment
Allegretto scherzando
Modérément lent – Variations, Tempo allegretto – Allegro non troppo
Gabriel Pierné

Trio No. 2 (1929)
Allegretto ben moderato
Molto allegro
Andante molto moderato
Allegro ma non troppo
Frank Bridge

Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937)
Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, op. 45 (1922)

Gabriel Pierné was a composer, pianist, organist and conductor. A contempo­rary of Debussy, he enrolled in the Paris Conservatory where his teachers in­cluded Massenet and Franck.  He spent most of his professional life as a con­ductor and conducted the premieres of works by many of his contemporaries, including Stravinsky’s The Firebird. He composed in many forms, but the cham­ber music of his later years contains some of his finest music. The Piano Trio was premiered in 1922 with the composer at the piano.  It shows many of his stylistic characteristics: the charm and elegance that he had learned from Masse­net overlaying the mastery of structure and an extensive use of recurring themes learned from Franck.

The first movement begins with the piano stating many of the ideas that will recur throughout the entire piece. Overall the mood is restless and agitated with dark, complex harmonies. After the development a slow, calm episode occurs which serves as the slow movement for the work. Soon enough, the energy and drama of the exposition returns before the movement ends quietly.

The second movement, which functions as a scherzo, adopts a Basque dance rhythm with a complex 3-3-2 meter. Several dance motives are passed between the instruments with the cello and violin employing frequent pizzicato chords.  A slower trio section occurs in a conventional triple meter. When the primary section returns, it is with even more abandon using rapid arpeggios in the piano and glissandi in the cello. The slower trio section returns to close the move­ment.

The third movement is a set of variations on a folk-like theme, framed by a brooding, ominous introduction and a joyous coda. The introduction both re­calls motives from the first movement and parts of the theme that will become the basis of the variations. The variations begin with colorful resettings of the primary theme, growing more extensive and freer as they progress. The move­ment culminates with a brilliant and lively coda. (SLM)

Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
Piano Trio No. 2 (1929)

Like that of his contemporaries—Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bax and Ireland— Frank Bridge’s early music displays a pastoral “Englishness,” with frequent use of folk idioms.  He developed a strong and skilled mastery of classical forms from his teacher at the Royal College of Music, Charles Villiers Stanford, and his musical language showed a steadily evolving depth and individuality.  A prominent conductor and professional violist, Bridge produced a large output of orchestral and chamber music; much of his orchestral output is program­matic, including The Sea, Summer, and Enter Spring.  A significant influence was his participation in the chamber music competitions organized by W. W. Cobbett.  Cobbett’s charge was for single-movement “phantasies,” and this led Bridge to develop the cyclical forms that appear frequently in his middle and later works.

Like his pupil Benjamin Britten, Bridge was a staunch pacifist and profoundly affected by the Great War. During the war, and particularly in the 1920s, his music became increasingly austere and complex, with use of frequent bitonality and interlocking triads, indicating influences of Berg and Bartók.  While this tended to alienate his music from English audiences, Bridge’s conviction never wavered and the period following the mid-20s includes many works of uncom­promising power and individuality; Britten remained an ardent champion after his teacher’s death. 

The second piano trio belongs to this late period and the music inhabits an emotionally rarefied world.  The soaring opening theme, stated by the solo cello followed by the violin in counterpoint, forms the motivic material of much of the work and returns in the solo strings at the work’s close.  The second move­ment Scherzo is mainly pianissimo, with frequent use of pizzicato in the strings, creating a brittle, almost icy atmosphere.  In the third movement marked Andante molto moderato, the opening theme returns, overlying a relentless ostinato rhythm in the piano.  The finale follows without a break with an urgent, uncompromising theme.  After the development, the opening theme of the first movement returns and, as it transitions into the second subject, the music builds to a heroic unison in the strings. This is short-lived, however, and the triumphant energy dissipates as the music returns to the rarefied sound-world of the beginning, with all instruments closing pianissimo in the high reg­ister. (JCW)    

The Wright, Lebow, Moss Trio was formed in 2013 to explore lesser known treasures of the piano trio literature as well as enjoy the occasional libation and bon mot.  In addition to works by unknown composers, they also focus on sel­dom-played works of familiar composers.

Jonathan Wright studied violin in London with Bernard Partridge and has per­formed extensively in orchestral, chamber and solo repertoire in England and the US.  He is a former member of the string quartet Serenate Strings in South Dakota and is second violinist in the Claremont Colleges’ Quartet Euphoria.  Jonathan has been a member of the Biology faculty at Pomona College since 1998 where he is the William Atwood Hilton Professor of Zoology.  

Cellist Roger Lebow’s concert life—whether solo and chamber performances, or with LA Opera—embraces repertoire from the 16th century to new music, which has led him to commission, premiere, and otherwise champion numerous cello works, and to help form the venerable LA new music collective XTET in 1986. Lebow was the founding cellist of the Armadillo String Quartet and the Clarion Trio, and he spent several years in Seattle with the Philadelphia String Quartet. His chamber music recordings appear on the Delos, New World, Wa­ter Lily Acoustics, Spectral Harmonies, and Albany labels. He was the cello teacher at Pomona College for 23 years, taught at Chapman University and Oc­cidental College, and was on the guest faculty at CalArts, UC Irvine and UC Bjoerling.

Pianist and harpsichordist Stephan Moss was a student of Teala Bellini and Preethi de Silva. He has also studied composition with Barney Childs and is a frequent chamber music collaborator in the Claremont area and accompanist in the violin studio at Scripps College. After receiving a DMA in harpsichord per­formance, he has been active as both an IT specialist and a musician. He has appeared as a soloist with Con Gioia in southern California and the Magic Valley Symphony in Idaho.

HMC is deeply grateful for the generous support that created The Ken Stevens ’61 Founding Class Concert Series.

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