Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano, Op.94
Wilhelm Berger's Op.94 Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano is just one of many outstanding works this gifted composer produced before his untimely death as a result of a botched medical operation.
Berger (1861-1911) was born in Boston but returned to Germany with his family within a year of his birth. He grew up in Bremen where he received his first lessons in voice and piano. A scholarship allowed him to study with the famous composition teacher Friedrich Kiel in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik. After graduating, he held a number of teaching positions, including that of Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy. He also served as director of the famous Meiningen Court Orchestra. Berger, though his compositions had won many prizes and were often performed, did not quickly achieve the fame he deserved. Highly respected by the cognoscenti, he never self-promoted or advertised himself with the wider musical public as did several others. Fame finally did start to come, but just at the moment of his death, at which time he was starting to be regarded, along with Max Reger, as Germany's most important successor to Brahms. Unfortunately, the First World War and its aftermath, led to a total lack of interest for many decades of nearly all romantic composers, and the reputation of those who were less well-known such as Berger, never really recovered.
The Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano tonally is a work more advanced than Brahms but not quite so advanced as Reger. It dates from 1903 and was composed it for Richard Mühlfeld, the famous clarinetist of the Meiningen Orchestra for whom Brahms had composed his own clarinet trio. In many ways, the same reflective and gentle mood found there also permeates this work. The main theme to the opening Allegro has the autumnal quality that reminds one of Brahms. The second theme is closely related. The beautiful Adagio which comes next is leisurely and dreamy, replete with gorgeous, broad melodies. In the middle section, sung first by the cello, a sense of urgency creates a dramatic interlude. A slinky Scherzo, poco vivace, though more lively, still has a overall calm quality to it. The whirling piano part is cleverly intertwined with the other two voices. In the finale, Allegro con fuoco, Berger begins with a brilliant fugue, which races along bringing much excitement. The buoyant second theme, presented first by the clarinet, is playful and a little more relaxed.
Our edition is based on the original Kahnt edition of 1905, however, we have added rehearsal numbers and corrected mistakes. This is certainly a masterwork for this ensemble and should be of great interested to both professionals or amateurs.