VIAF 2014

A unique concert by Kalamus Trio on Monday evening

Monday evening saw the performance of a unique concert by Italian Kalamus Clarinet Trio, made up of Rodolfo La Banca, Domenico Marcello Urbinati and Massimiliano Limonetti.

Presenting an eclectic programme that traced the evolution of the Clarinet since its appearance during the High Baroque period till the Rococo, an enthralled audience saw and heard a performance that was special in every respect – from the instruments played to the pieces presented.

Briefly introducing every piece explaining the mechanics of the instruments and techniques involved, Rodolfo La Banca and his group started the concert with three very short pieces that showed how the ‘clarin’ during the Baroque period meant also what we nowadays understand to be a ‘trumpet’ and, indeed, these three pieces were in the style of a fanfare one normally associates with trumpets. The actual concert then started with a Graupner overture, a work that attests to the composer’s flexibility with mixing the Italianate and French styles he had clearly adopted as his idiosyncratic mode in his compositions. The lilting and lovely melodies, which are Italian in mood, are flavoured with the more piquant harmonies more prevalent in French late Baroque music. Kalamus Trio did justice to Graupner’s imaginative power in that although making use of the same instrument he manages to create colour, a varied tone and dynamic variety.

Next came Gherardeschi’s Sonatas for Clarinet Trio. One could appreciate the exquisite rapport amongst the players, with contrapuntal exchanges and voice-leading the clearly showed the transparent harmonic texture of this Italian composer. The following piece was by the famous clarinettist Anton Paul Stadler, who was also a fantastic basset horn player for whom the great Mozart wrote both his Clarinet Quintet and the Clarinet Concerto. He was reputed to be able to produce a beautiful tone, with exceptional mastery of the low register of the basset clarinet and distinctive basset horn playing. A contemporary Viennese critic, referring to Stadler, wrote, “I would not have thought that a clarinet could imitate the human voice so deceptively as you imitate it. Your instrument is so soft, so delicate in tone that no-one who has a heart can resist it.” In fact, his Two Trios for Basset Horn which were performed during the concert manifest the composer’s remarkable knowledge and insight into the dynamic intensity of the instrument and what truly came forth in these two works was the sonority and beauty of tone, for which Stadler is best remembered.

Moving forward in time, Kalamus Trio finished their performance with two of Mozart’s Divertimenti for Basset Horn Trio. Mozart is inimitable as well as immediately recognizable and these works, which our audiences are not very likely to hear all often, show what a truly versatile composer he was. Alternating fast with slow movements, he brings out the tonal colour of the various registers of the basset horn and despite the uniformity he manages to create variety in his very special way. Particularly beautiful were the middle movements, especially that of Divertimento no. 4. One could not help hearing traces of that absolutely ravishing and sublime second movement of his famous Clarinet Concerto – in fact, the melody seemed to merge aspects of the main theme of his movement with his equally beautiful tune from the Agnus Dei of his Coronation Mass. Kalamus Trio played with supreme elegance and style and, in fact, these were the hallmarks of their performance throughout.

At the end, the audience could enjoy inspecting the various clarinets used during the concert, which had been displayed in the concert hall. This was truly a very special concert indeed!