Known for its " sparkling virtuosity" and " unstarched" approach to music (to quote European newspaper Delo Fax) Alaria has been featured at such festivals as the Manchester Music Festival (USA), Ameropa Chamber Music Festival (Czech Republic), Ljubljana Festival (Slovenia), and the Emilia Romagna Festival (Italy), among others.
Alaria's mission is to build an interactive community of chamber music listeners, players, teachers, and composers. Among the composers who have written for Alaria are Ursula Mamlok (two commissioned works: Alariana and In Celebration), David Loeb, John Carbon and jazz composer Phillip Johnston. Alaria works in collaboration with the New York Composers' Circle, and is engaged in a multi-year exploration of the works of Alexander Tcherepnine.
Ensemble-in-Residence of the Extension Division of the Mannes College of Music since 1984, Alaria coaches a year-round chamber music program for players of all instruments, at levels ranging from beginner to professional. The program includes a performance seminar and, since 2001, a seminar in Chamber Music Pedagogy, inaugurated with the support of the Clinton B. Ford Fund of ACMP Foundation. The combination of performance and education that characterizes Alaria's work has won for the ensemble a unique role in the chamber music world.
The CD was produced by Peter Frank, recorded and mastered by Jerry Bruck (Posthorn Recordings); graphic design and cover photograph by Catherine Kirkpatrick; photographs by Jean-Marie Guyaux.
Henry Cowell (1897-1966)was such an actively curious scholar and composer that his life and work would seem to exceed the dimensions of a single fulfilled existence. He traveled widely, assimilating many musics into his compositions. Yet he clearly admired a distinctly American idiom, based on a true sense of "common usage." Cowell recognized, as did Charles Ives, the central role of hymn singing in American culture, and referred to it throughout his career with warmth, but without sentimentality. One hears it in several movements in this stunning Trio in Nine Short Movements, along with a penetrating objectivity inviting us to hear, as he did, what happens at the edges of sound. This was Cowell's last completed work.
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Perhaps it was the audacity of the music of Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)that attracted the attention of Alfredo Casella (1883-1947), one of Italy's leading composers of the 20th century. Piano students drilled into predictable renderings of his sonatinas might find it hard to believe that Clementi was, in fact, an extremely witty and inventive composer. This Trio in D is one of the many "Sonatas for Pianoforte with Accompaniment of Violin (or Flute) and Cello"composed to highlight the remarkable sound of the newly invented piano. It is noteworthy that the modern-sounding "disruptions"in the structure are all Clementi's. Casella has reworked the string parts to make them palatable to post-19th-century musicians.
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Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote for the piano as no one else even dreamed of doing until long after his death. He engaged the sound imagination by subtly voicing even the simplest harmonies so that the ear is held in alertness by the piano's rich resonance. Once you have entered that magical sound world you are free to experience form in a new way and respond to the delights of the Schumann Op. 88 Fantasy Pieces, composed in 1842 for piano trio. Every note of this cycle fits into a recognizable harmony, yet one senses an unseen character lurking in the shadows. Occasionally it takes concrete shape -- entering on the "wrong" beat of the bar perhaps, or interrupting a perfectly respectable phrase. Schumann engages the ear in musical storytelling that never palls.
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Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) composed the Trio in E minor after the siege of Leningrad in 1944. It is an outpouring of devotion to music as a healing force in the face of the devastation of war without a trace of sentimentality. Shostakovich uses the model of the Classical Sonata to lead us through the devastation, one element at a time. The piece begins with a movement in sonata form, but instead of "real" notes he uses harmonics, as if to fragment sound itself. Ringing Russian bells add to the pain, their intensity matched by an obsessive folk lament. Our sense of fundamental disturbance is reinforced when the customary order of the inner movements - song first, then dance - is reversed. The macabre dance that is the second movement literally collides with the dirgelike Chaconne which suggests a Chorale but without a melody. In each of the two inner movements time is measured according to a new standard, one faster than fast, the other unbearably slow. Throughout the work the single voices of the three instrumentalists penetrate dissolution with passionate directness. At the close a sweeping wind restores an eerie silence in which we remember past music when the strings intone the chorale melody that was missing in the Adagio. We are left at the end within the strange stillness of an E-major triad.
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1. Henry Cowell: Trio in Nine Short Movements: Largo
2. Cowell Trio: Allegretto
3. Cowell Trio: Andante
4. Cowell Trio: Allegro
5. Cowell Trio: Andante sostenuto
6. Cowell Trio: Allegro
7. Cowell Trio: Allegretto
8. Cowell Trio: Adagio cantabile
9. Cowell Trio: Allegro assai
10. Clementi - Casella Trio in D, Op. 28, No. 2: Allegro amabile
11. Clementi - Casella: Polonese
12. Clementi - Casella: Rondo
13. Schumann Fantasy Pieces, Op. 88: Romance
14. Schumann: Humoresque
15. Schumann: Duet
16. Schumann: Finale
17. Shostakovich Trio in E minor, Op. 67: Andante
18. Shostakovich: Allegro non troppo
19. Shostakovich: Largo
20. Shostakovich: Allegretto