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Tom Rose brings a more extended presentation of Muczynski to Old St. Mary’s

The opening measures of Muczynski's "Fantasy Trio"
The opening measures of Muczynski's "Fantasy Trio"
from a sample image provided by Sheet Music Plus (fair use)

Clarinetist Tom Rose has become a regular in the Noontime Concerts™ series of recitals at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral; and he has provided those who follow him regularly with a rich account of the clarinet repertoire. Back in July of 2011, he prepared a recital that included the first and last of the four movements from a composition by Robert Muczynski entitled “Fantasy Trio.” Muczynski was born in Chicago on March 19, 1929 to parents of Polish and Slovak descent. He entered DePaul University in 1947 as a piano major but ended up studying composition with Alexander Tcherepnin, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

The two movements that Rose played in 2011, accompanied by Miles Graber on piano and Ruth Lane on cello, were distinguished by both their brevity and their intensity of energy, both characteristics that one frequently encounters in Tcherepnin’s music. At today’s Noontime Concerts™ recital, Rose and Graber performed “Fantasy Trio” in its entirety, this time with cellist Michael Graham. One could appreciate Muczynski’s ability to say much without overstating his case in all four of the movements. Indeed, his preference for abrupt conclusions provided a keen sense of wit that made this return to his music a welcome affair. That intensity of energy was still present, but it was buoyed up by the feeling that all three musicians took great pleasure in presenting this music to the audience.

In 2011 the two Muczynski movements followed a performance of Johannes Brahms’ Opus 114 trio in A minor, providing a refreshing contrast to the deeply introspective nature of Brahms’ rhetoric. At today’s recital the order was reversed, placing Brahms’ rhetoric under different lights, so to speak. By following the almost antic nature of Muczynski’s trio, the Brahms trio was more calming than brooding. One could still empathize with the melancholy of some of his thematic material, but the overall mood was more one of acceptance than despair. Most importantly, one could appreciate that Brahms created this music because he found something inspiring in the sonorities of the clarinet (at least to the extent that he became acquainted with those sonorities through the playing of Richard Mühlfeld); and, like any good composer, he could not be content until he had converted his inspiration into a fully thought-out piece of music.