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Program for Graber/Artmann/Stenberg Trio

Friday, April 22, 2022 at 8 pm

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Miles Graber, piano
Mary Artmann, cello
Kate Stenberg, 


Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)
Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8 (1923)

Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979)
Piano Trio (1921)
Moderato ma appassionato
            Andante molto semplice
            Allegro vigoroso


Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
Piano Trio (1914)
            Pantoum (Assez vif)
            Passacaille (Très large)
            Finale (Animé)

About the music

Dmitri Shostakovich composed his first piano trio at the age of 17 while at the Moscow Conservatory in 1923. The Piano Trio No.1 in C minor, Opus 8, is remarkable enough, as the composition of a seventeen-year-old student. However, there are plenty of hints in the piece of the mature Shostakovich, new directions that evidently did not please his instructors at the time. The original score only exists in the form of a number of Shostakovich’s autographs which had to be meticulously reconstructed.

The period was a difficult one for Shostakovich. His father had died in 1922 and he was obliged to support his mother and sisters by working as a cinema pianist. In 1923 he had spent some time in a sanatorium in the Crimea in an attempt to recuperate from tuberculosis. While he was recovering he met Tatiana Glivenko, the daughter of a Moscow philologist and fell in love. It was to her that he dedicated this deeply romantic piano trio. -K.S.

Rebecca Clarke moved to the U.S. from her native England in 1916 to pursue a performing career as a viola virtuoso. Her well-known Viola Sonata, which she wrote for herself to perform, was an instant success after she tied in a composition competition at the Berkshire Festival in 1919. The tie was shared with Bloch, with the benefactress of the Festival, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, casting the deciding vote. Bloch ultimately won the prize, while Clarke received a runner-up. Clarke had submitted her sonata under a pseudonym to avoid discrimination, causing quite a stir when her true identity was disclosed afterwards. On the heels of this success, Clarke submitted her Trio to the Festival only to achieve the same outcome.

Clarke’s Trio was premiered at the Wigmore Hall in 1921 with Dame Myra Hess on piano. The historical backdrop of World War I echoes throughout the three movements of the Trio, starting with the violent and dissonant opening fanfare motif. Unifying this work as a whole, Clarke skillfully transforms the fanfare motif into many different moods and atmospheres: sometimes seductive, playful, or ominous; other times tragic and mournful. Riding the wave of modernity characteristic of this post-war period, Clarke’s rich harmonic explorations include polytonality, and pentatonic and whole tone scales. Her use of irregular rhythmic meters and inventive textures add interest and personality to the musical landscape. Ultimately, it’s Clarke’s intensely passionate expressivity that synthesizes the elements of her musical language into a compelling artistic statement with a universal appeal.

Despite some early success, Clarke received only one commission in her long life. The past three decades have seen an enthusiastic resurgence of interest in her music with a burst of new editions, recordings, and scholarship. The Rebecca Clarke Society was established in 2000 to promote the study and performance of her music. -M.A.

Maurice Ravel composed his only piano trio in 1914, finishing it only a few days after France’s entry into World War I.  Everyone including Ravel had known that war was coming, and he later told his student that he did five months’ work in five weeks to finish his trio and join the Army. He ultimately failed the physical, but during the war he volunteered as an ambulance driver. Ravel was born in a Basque town in southwestern France. His mother was Basque, and he was proud of his Basque heritage.

The opening theme of the first movement of the trio is reminiscent of a melody that Ravel is said to have heard sung (and danced) by Basque ice cream vendors. The theme is notable for its 3-2-3 rhythmic pulse, a feature of much Basque music that reappears throughout the four movements. The second movement is labeled Pantoum, a Malaysian poetic form involving repeating and interlocking lines and rhythms. The third movement is a passacaglia based on a theme that is suggestive of a stretched-out version of the theme of the Pantoum that preceded it. The final movement compounds motives and rhythms from the first three, finally climaxing in an orchestral explosion of sound. -M.G.

About the musicians

A leading interpreter of contemporary chamber music, violinist Kate Stenberg has performed in a dozen countries across the globe. As a champion of new music, Stenberg has premiered over one hundred solo and chamber works including works by Gabriella Lena Frank, Peter Sculthorpe, Chinary Ung, Jack Body, Ronald Bruce Smith, Tania Leon, Charles Amirkhanian, Per Nørgård, and Kui Dong. Her recordings are available on New World Records, Sono Luminous, Newport Classics, New Albion and Other Minds Records.

Kate Stenberg was a co-founder of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and Real Vocal String Quartet, and from 1995-2015 served as first violinist of the award winning Del Sol String Quartet. Currently, Stenberg performs regularly with renowned pianist Sarah Cahill. Formed in 2016, the Stenberg|Cahill Duo is committed to promoting American experimental chamber music and expanding its repertoire by commissioning new works.

Cellist Mary Artmann is an active chamber musician, recitalist, and freelancer in the Bay Area. Ms. Artmann is a former member of the award-winning Veronika String Quartet, artists-in-residence at Colorado State University-Pueblo. Many of her collaborative performance projects have been sponsored by grants from the Colorado Council on the Arts and the New York State Council of the Arts. She has recorded for Colorado Public Radio, Radio Nuevo Leon, Radio France, WDR (Cologne, Germany) and WBFO’s Opus Classics Series (Buffalo, NY). She was twice the recipient of the Alfred Hertz Memorial Traveling Fellowship, sponsoring intensive study in Cologne, Germany and Los Angeles.

Ms. Artmann maintains a private teaching studio in Richmond. She is an avid hiker, a member of the Sierra Club and is committed to using her skills to address our global climate emergency.

Pianist Miles Graber received his musical training at the Juilliard School. He has performed with numerous artists, including Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Camilla Wicks, Axel Strauss, Mimi Stillman, Paula Robison, Zuill Bailey, Judith LeClair, Frederica von Stade, and Christina Mok. Mr. Graber has been associated with such organizations as the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Midsummer Mozart, Oakland Symphony, Berkeley Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony, Oakland Lyric Opera, Berkeley Opera, Opera San Jose, and the California Symphony.

Currently, Miles Graber holds accompanying posts at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Domenico Conservatory, Irving M. Klein International String Competition, Mondavi Young Artist Competition, and the Northern California Flute Camp. Mr. Graber is a member of the Alcyone Ensemble, MusicAEterna, the Graham-Graber-Rose Trio, the Sor Ensemble, and Trio Foss.

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