On Friday, March 23, I went to St. Michaels College to hear a concert of music for a trio of clarinet, bassoon and piano played by Elizabeth LeBlanc, Rachael Elliott and Annemieke Spoelstra. These three very active musicians have no name for their trio, but that didn't seem to matter. They played three works on the program: Trio in G minor by the little-known William Hurlstone; Beethoven's Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11; and Mikhail Glinka's Trio Pathetique in D minor. The Beethoven is a familiar work, especially the last movement. Although originally scored for cello instead of bassoon, the change in the instrument didn't do any damage to the piece. The Hurlstone -- and Hurlstone himself -- were terribly new territory for this reviewer. Hurlstone died at 30 in 1906, and his music is Brahmsian at times, but without any of Brahms's inspiration. It's mostly a musical curiosity with little except the scoring to recommend it to the attention of a group of musicians. The Glinka was a well-crafted, well-conceived composition.
As to the musicians: they all three have very busy schedules at present, and I imagine that with one thing and another they have not had a great deal of time to work together. They need to gel; they need to agree more closely on tempi; they need to commission new works for their particular combination of instruments, works that better encompass the potential and the sound of the bassoon. After a time, playing transcriptions will become old hat for the bassoonist -- that despite the fact that both the cello and the bassoon are used as continuo instruments in the Baroque period. Tempo was the other major problem: in particular Rachael Elliott, the clarinetist, seemed to be moving in a slightly different tempo-world from Spoelstra and Elliott, perhaps because she is thinking more as a soloist than as a member of an ensemble.