Oct 21, 2016 - The Poulenc Trio
Irina Kaplan, piano; Liang Wong, oboe; Bryan Young, bassoon
With Special Guests: Paolo Bortolussi, flute; François Houle, clarinet; Laurel Spencer, French horn
Elizabeth had a chance to ask the Poulenc members a few questions about the programme…
What compelled these composers to write for this particular ensemble? Is all the repertoire original works or do you also draw from arrangements for your ensemble? Anything specific things the audience can listen for in this particular programme?
We’re most interested in playing the best music in the world! Our repertoire includes great original works for oboe, bassoon and piano, by composers from Handel and Poulenc to Jean Françaix and Andre Previn. We also play famous arrangements: Our Fantasy on Rossini's Semiramide is a virtuosic arrangement made during the 19th century by the principal oboist and bassoonist of the Paris Opera, who toured much like we do. We constantly work with living composers to create new original repertoire too. In fact, we've commissioned more than 20 new works since we started the group in 2003.
Two highlights of our concert at WRC are Poulenc's Sextet and Mozart's Quintet. In a letter to his father about his Quintet, Mozart said that "I myself consider it to be the best thing I have written in my life." And Poulenc performed his Sextet on numerous occasions throughout his life, both in his native Paris, and later on tour in Philadelphia. The most exciting part about these pieces for us however, is that we get to perform them here with our fine Canadian colleagues.
Is the combination of bassoon, oboe and piano comparable to the typical piano trio? What makes for the unique blend of sounds in this trio combination?
We have "improved" the traditional violin, cello and piano trio with more ancient voices: the oboe acts as the bright-voiced melodic lead, the bassoon plays the mellow, earthy companion, and the piano keeps everything in harmony. The combination of oboe and bassoon is actually quite a bit older than the traditional piano trio–groups of these instruments would often perform together in Renaissance bands called "consorts" as long ago as the 15th century. The oboe and bassoon are both "double-reed instruments", which means that their sounds are produced by blowing through two delicate, hand-crafted blades of a cane plant similar to bamboo. Since the sound of both instruments is produced in such an organic way, the musical effect can be beautiful and haunting–at once more human and wholly different from the sounds that a typical piano trio can make.
What exciting projects/concert tours have you done recently?
Over the summer, the Trio launched our latest CD, called CREATION, featuring a collaboration with the Guggenheim-winning poet Lia Purpura. The CD reached #4 on iTunes Apple Music's Classical Music Playlist. Also during the summer we toured France and made beautiful music at the Zodiac Festival in Cannes. We started the 2016-17 season with a collaboration with the legendary clarinetist David Shifrin, and are looking forward to adding to our tally of 46 US states visited over the past few years.
Upcoming plans for the ensemble…?
One of our most exciting upcoming projects is the 2017 premiere of Trains of Thought: Animated, a collaboration with the composer Viet Cuong and animator/filmmaking duo Elizabeth and Alden Phelps. The project combines a new kinetic hyper-modern musical score with a painstakingly animated film that visually recalls the style of Saul Steinberg, the famous illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. Trains of Thought: Animated will premiere in a special showing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in May 2017.