Zodiac Trio at the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto. Walter Hall, University of Toronto, 9 November 2017
The Zodiac Trio was formed at the Manhattan School of Music in 2006, and consists of Riko Higuma, piano, Kliment Krylovskiy, clarinet, and Vanessa Mollard, violin. In the 120 year history of the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, this is the first time that a chamber ensemble of this instrumentation has appeared, and indeed all of the works on the program were being heard for the first time in a WMCT recital. But as Simon Fryer, the artistic director of the WMCT, pointed out in his brief opening remarks, the seven works on the program, ranging in date from 1918 to the present, offered a kind of chronological overview of the entire musical history of the WMCT, which was founded in 1898. Or, as Krylovskiy, who acted as the witty MC for the recital, stated, it was a “five-course meal” of the repertoire for clarinet, violin, and piano.
Before the twentieth century, there were no important works for this chamber grouping. Beethoven and Brahms both wrote clarinet trios, but with cello instead of violin; Mozart wrote one with viola instead of violin. Lacking repertoire from the golden age of European chamber music, the Zodiac Trio filled out its program with works by Stravinsky (an entertaining suite of five movements that the composer arranged from his L’Histoire du soldat), Khachaturian, and Bartók, plus recent works by Paul Schoenfield and Nicolas Gilbert, and two arrangements of music by Shostakovich and Piazzolla. All of the performances were to a very high professional standard. However, none of the works on the program could be considered a real masterpiece, so while satisfying, the recital is not one that provided any truly unforgettable moments.
Krylovskiy is an expressive, extroverted player; Mollard, while technically proficient, is an introverted and rather self-contained musician. Higuma was cast into a background role as the accompanist rather than a true chamber music partner for most of the program.
In Bartók’s Contrasts, for instance, the closing work and the highlight of the recital, there is a brilliant solo cadenza for the clarinet in the first movement and one for the violin in the last movement, but not one for the piano. Two new works were featured. The first, by the composer and novelist Nicolas Gilbert of Montreal, was commissioned by the Zodiac Trio, who premiered the work in Montreal last year. Titled Comment révéler un secret (How to Reveal a Secret), it is a work in five short movements, whose modest intentions and muted sense of humour resulted in a pleasant but rather inconsequential artistic statement.
The other novelty — just two days old, according to Krylovskiy’s announcement, was the encore, an over-the-top arrangement of the song “House of the Rising Sun”. I did not care for it myself, but it was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause from the audience. In short, the five-course meal sated my appetite for this particular fare, without leaving me hungry for more of the same any time soon.
[Disclosure: Robin Elliot is the coordinator of the Tuning Your Mind pre-concert talks for the WMCT]