Ensemble 360

Junction, Goole
Thursday 16 November 2023, 7.00pm



Past Event

BRUCH Selection from 8 Pieces (c.20′)
SCHUMANN Fantasy Pieces Op.73 (11′)
CLARKE Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (14′)
MOZART Kegelstatt Trio (20′)

Pianist Tim Horton is joined by two more recent additions to Ensemble 360, the world-class Rachel Roberts on viola and Robert Plane on clarinet.

A selection of Bruch’s elegiac, lush fragments open the concert and a selection of playful and romantic ‘fantasy pieces’ follow.

Schumann’s three short pieces pair cello and piano in perfect balance, as they range across wildly contrasting fantastical melodies, moving from a dreamy opening plunging into a fiery finale. Mozart’s innovative Kegelstatt Trio concludes this perfect introduction to these fabulous musicians.

BRUCH Max, Eight Pieces Op.83 for clarinet, viola and piano (extracts)

Bruch composed these pieces in 1908 for his son, Max Felix, who was a clarinettist. Three of the pieces were originally written with an additional harp part, but by the time the work was published in 1910, Bruch had settled on a trio of clarinet, viola and piano. Discussing publication with Simrock in February 1910, Bruch wrote that the pieces had been ‘met with great approval where they were played from the manuscript’ and it’s easy to see why. Bruch always intended separate performances of individual pieces (indeed, he advised against playing all of them together), and selections can be used to make an effective suite.

© Nigel Simeone

SCHUMANN Robert, Fantasy Pieces Op.73

Zart und mit Ausdruck [Tender, with expression] 
Lebhaft, leicht [Lively, light] 
Rasch und mit Feuer [Quick and passionate] 


Schumann’s three Fantasy Pieces Op.73 were sketched very quickly – in just two days on 11 and 12 February 1849 – and he wrote them to enchant: on the original manuscript, Schumann calls them “Soirée Pieces” (Soiréestücke). He was eager to hear them tried out: on 18 February, less than a week after finishing the work, a rehearsal was held chez Schumann in Dresden. Clara played the piano and was joined by the clarinetist Kroth from the Court Orchestra. Though intended for clarinet, the pieces were published six months later in alternative versions for violin and cello, and later in arrangements for other instruments – including flute, oboe, viola and double bass. Schumann was fascinated at the time by the possibilities of combining different solo instruments with piano, and worked with extraordinary speed during February 1849: the day after finishing the Fantasy Pieces he started the Adagio and Allegro for horn. As Clara herself put it, “all the instruments are having a turn” – and the very same day that the Fantasy Pieces had their first run-through, Schumann began one of his most astonishing instrumental experiments: the Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra.  


The three Fantasy Pieces were intended to appeal to professional players and to talented amateurs. Far from composing showpieces for the clarinet, Schumann uses a musical language that has a feeling of intimacy and tenderness, recalling the style and sound world of some of his most expressive solo piano pieces. One later performance deserves a special mention: a private concert in Rüdesheim in which Brahms and the great clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld played both of Brahms’s late Clarinet Sonatas, ending their recital with Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces. Heinz von Beckerath later recalled that though it took a little while for him to appreciate Brahms’s masterpieces, “the Schumann pieces were delightful”. 


Nigel Simeone © 2012 

CLARKE Rebecca, Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale

After studies at the Royal College of Music (where her teachers included Stanford for composition and Lionel Tertis for the viola), Rebecca Clarke began her career as a viola player in Sir Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra, one of London’s first female professional orchestral players. After moving to the United States, Clarke completed her best-known work, the Sonata for Viola and Piano, in 1919. It tied for first place (with a piece by Ernest Bloch) in a composition prize offered by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Clarke followed this with a Piano Trio in 1921. Coolidge commissioned Clarke’s Rhapsody for Cello and Piano in 1923. After returning to London in 1924, Clarke became a busy chamber music performer with less time to devote to composition. When war broke out in 1939, Clarke was in the United States visiting her brothers, one of whom was Hans Clarke, a distinguished biochemist. With the war at its height, she could not return to Britain and in the end she settled in New York. There, by chance, she met James Friskin, a pianist and composer she had known in their student days. They married in 1944 and Clarke stopped composing.

The Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale is one of her last works, written in 1941. It was dedicated to Clarke’s brother Hans and his wife Fietzchen. In an interview in 1978, Rebecca Clarke described the Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale as ‘very simple’ and admitted that she didn’t offer it to any publishers: it ‘came at a time when I was just not bothering about showing things to publishers.’ This was partly due to modesty, but it also reveals something of the obstacles Clarke had to overcome in order to achieve the recognition she deserved (it was eventually published in 2000). Writing for clarinet and viola without piano accompaniment was clearly a challenge Clarke relished and the ingenuity of the dialogue between the two instruments is testimony to her inventiveness and skill. The work is in three sections: the quiet sobriety of Prelude (marked Andante semplice) leads to an angular Allegro vigoroso followed by a rather melancholy Pastorale, marked Poco lento. The quality of the musical ideas here reveals a composer of real character whose career had been blighted by discouragement and depressive illness.

© Nigel Simone 2018

MOZART Amadeus, Trio in E flat K498 Kegelstatt

Rondo. Allegretto

This is Mozart’s only trio for his three favourite instruments: clarinet, viola and piano. The nickname ‘Kegelstatt’ means ‘skittle alley’, and legend has it that Mozart wrote the work during a game of skittles. This may be far-fetched, especially given the rather noble character of the music, but what is certain is that he wrote the trio in Vienna, and entered it in his own thematic catalogue on 5 August 1786. The first movement is a marvellous example of Mozart’s invention at its most concentrated and unforced: every element in this sonata-form movement derives from the ornamental turn that is such a distinctive feature of the opening. The Minuet surprises by its almost grand character – no mere courtly dance, but something more imposing – and this is followed by an unhurried Rondo that brings this radiant work to a lyrical conclusion.

© Nigel Simeone