PONTOON-BRIDGE MIRACLE for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1996) (Written for the Orion Ensemble)
W. A. Mozart
QUARTET in E-Flat Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, K. 493
Alexander von Zemlinsky
TRIO in D Minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op. 3
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James Wintle's Pontoon-Bridge Miracle for clarinet, violin and piano, commissioned by Orion in 1996, is a highly programmatic and expertly crafted piece based on a poem about Chicago by American poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931). Wintle's music complements the rhythmic inspiration of Lindsay, who is considered the founder of modern singing poetry, which is meant to be chanted or sung. The work is in seven sections, evoking Chicago in both lively present and ghostly past, including one section that represents P.T. Barnum's circus animals parading down Michigan Avenue. Wintle was a professor of music at Southeastern Oklahoma State University who focused on collaborative relationships with specific chamber groups.
Mozart's Duo in B-flat Major for violin and viola, K. 424 was an act of friendship. In July 1783, Mozart and his new bride, Constanze, visited Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace. Essentially on vacation, the two enjoyed hiking and renewing contacts with friends. One of these was Michael Haydn, brother of the famous composer and a brilliant composer and musician in his own right. Commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg (Mozart's old boss) to compose six duos for violin and viola, Michael Haydn fell ill and was unable to complete the work. Mozart stepped in and composed the remaining two duos for a friend in need. Particularly fascinating in the Duo in B-Flat Major are the Andante cantabile, featuring the viola's expressive range, and the charming Theme and Variations of the Finale.
The Quartet in E-flat Major for violin, viola, cello and piano, K. 493 features some of Mozart's finest and most elegant writing for piano and strings-in essence, a piano concerto in miniature. Upon finding Mozart's first piano quartet (in G Minor) too difficult and moody, publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister released him from his obligation to produce more quartets for publication. Mozart, never discouraged by rejection, went ahead and completed this work, his second quartet.
Alexander von Zemlinsky's Trio in D Minor for clarinet, cello and piano, Op. 3 so impressed Brahms that he immediately brought it to the attention of his publisher, Simrock. Simrock thought highly of the music but suggested the more conventional instrumentation of violin, cello and piano. Zemlinsky made a second arrangement of the work to Simrock's request but kept the original scoring for his own use. The original version, powerful and richly textured, beautifully depicts the ideals of late Romantic Era chamber music-large in scope but highly intimate in expression.