On March 27, Martin Katz, “dean of collaborative piano,” gave the second of his two concerts this season at Longy School of Music. The first, on February 14, was reviewed here. This time, the program was equally romantic. It started with the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano of Francis Poulenc. Written in 1962, the sonata is energetic, cheerful, and full of melody. The excellent program notes by Rebecca Marchand — BMInt reviewer — suggests it is reminiscent of Schubert but full of Poulenc’s characteristic harmonies. Michael Wayne played the clarinet with great sensitivity; he is not afraid of starting a line pianissimo and then keeping the line growing forever. Poulenc’s lines are particularly long, so he had every chance to show his skill.
The second piece was the Sonata for Cello and Piano, op.119, by Sergei Prokofiev. Cellist was Mihail Jojatu. Marchand’s notes identify the date of its composition, 1949, as the year Andrei Zhdanov, the Leningrad Communist Party chief, banned a number of works by Prokofiev and Shostakovich. From that time on, Prokofiev’s music disappeared the USSR and did not reappear until well after the composer’s death in 1953. Indeed, the andante grave which opens the first movement was melancholy in the extreme. It consisted of passionate, powerful sweeps of the bow in the lowest register of the cello, marking out a melody of passionate sadness. But the moderato animato that soon follows introduces, in the words of Marchand, “one of the most beautifully lyric melodies in chamber music literature, heard first in the cello, then presented by the piano.” The second movement marked moderato was far more upbeat, played with grace and humor. The final movement allegro ma non troppo concluded the work on a definitely positive note.
The third piece on the program, the Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano in A minor, op. 114, by Brahms, is one of the great works of romantic music. Written near the end of Brahms’s life, it is full of melodies and opportunities to show the strengths of the three instruments. Brahms had given up composing and had written his will when he heard Richard Mühlfeld, the first clarinet of the Meiningen Orchestra. Brahms was so inspired by Mühlfeld’s playing that he composed this work and went on to write the great clarinet quintet, the two clarinet sonatas, and the final set of songs. Brahms sometimes called Mühlfeld “Fraülein Klarinette” or “Fraülein Nachtigall.” Indeed in the second and third movements, the cello and the clarinet often seemed to be having a lover’s dialog. But the first movement and the last movement really belong to the piano, and Katz showed his brilliance – without overwhelming the lovers. The encore was an arrangement of one of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances – Gypsy music announced by Katz as “the real thing,” and played with appropriate schmaltz.