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From Audio Notes, by William Nichols
In The Clarinet, Volume 38, Number 1, December 2010, page 15

Composer Rick Sowash released a disc of chamber music late last year entitled Pastorale. The recording presents a quartet entitled Pastorale for flute and strings, a work for cello and piano, also for solo cello and a piece for solo harpsichord. Additionally, and to the gratitude of clarinetists, the disc contains two Sowash trios for violin, clarinet and piano played by the Verdehr Trio (Walter Verdehr, violin; Elsa Verdehr, clarinet; and Silvia Roederer, piano.)

Rick Sowash has written virtually dozens of works which utilize or feature the clarinet. Among an array of chamber music there are some 13 trios for clarinet, cello and piano! The violin/clarinet/piano trios presented on this release are two of three. Both bear programmatic titles: Trio #2: American Variations on a Belarussian Folk Tune; and Trio #3: Memories of Corsica.

Sowash's trios are in the 20th-century-tonal style which is immediately accessible and appealing. Trio #2 (from 1994 and revised in 2005) utilizes a perky, lighthearted theme as a point of departure. The variations are imaginative and evoke an American spirit which at times have a home-spun square-dance or hoe-down flavor. The lyrical variations reveal the beautiful expressive possibilities inherent in this Russian tune. The variations close with a out-and-out ragtime finale. This 15+-minute piece is infectious, made more so by the sytlistic perfection of the Verdehr Trio.

The Trio #3 (2007) is one of the Verdehr Trio's commissioned works. It, also 15+ minutes in length, a three-movement work which was inspired by the composer's visit to the island of Corsica. Although more serious in character than the second trio, it is for the most part a gentle work, often relaxed in mood. Textures are transparent, and there are plenty of solo passages for each instrument sprinkled thoughout. The piano writing is generally kept light, never overpowering the ensemble (in part due to Silvia Roederer's keen sense of balance), and the piano is often treated as a third single-line melodic voice. The middle section of the second movement, "Aromatic Breezes," with the piano's open chords and simple violin melody, recalls Copland (the violin sonata in particular). Heard promently near the end of the third movement, "Ardent Souls," is a stalwart tune which presumably represents the "proud and firece spirt of the Corsican people.

These are two very attractive and appealing works by Rick Sowash, played most effectively by a seasoned ensemble which is well known to most of our readers. Another important factor to the success of these pieces is the recorded sound, which is stunning. The instrument timbres captured here are as vivid and natural as recording gets, including the terrific sounding piano, an instrument which is so often poorly reproduced in modern recordings. The Verdehr Tio seems present in the room, with each instrument detailed, and the ensemble balance perfect. Kudos to producer / engineer Sergei Kvitko and the Blue Griffin Studio in Lansing, Michigan for these recordings, which would make any audiophile smile.

Sheet music available here...


"These are two very attractive and appealing works by Rick Sowash, played most effectively by a seasoned ensemble which is well known to most of our readers.."
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