Brahms Through the Looking Glass is a concert inspired by and featuring Brahms’ B Major Piano Trio, scored for piano, cello, and violin in four movements. Brahms has been considered, by his contemporaries and by later writers, as both a traditionalist and an innovator. For this program, Brahms' work serves as a starting point and an inspiration for a new generation of emerging composers. Contemporary composers Jennifer Jolley and Kenneth Lim reflect on the piano trio tradition and give fresh perspectives on an old masterpiece with new works to be premiered at these concerts.
Jennifer Jolley truly puts a new spin on a classic tradition when approaching the task of composing her new piano trio. “I wrote a mashup involving Johannes Brahms’s B Major Trio and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass in the best way I knew how—via cats,” explains Jolley. “There was a time when Johannes Brahms signed his musical works with the moniker “Johannes Kreisler,” a fictitious composer found in E.T.A Hoffman’s novel The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr. In this novel, a printer’s error accidentally splices and mixes the Tomcat Murr’s autobiography with a book about the composer Johannes Kreisler, and the reader has a hard time figuring out who is the cat and who is the composer.” Carroll’s Alice, who falls through the looking glass while chasing her naughty cat, also serves as inspiration for Jolley’s new piece. The result is a musical romp with tumbles, turns, and playful surprises.
Composer Kenneth Lim took a different approach when creating a companion piece for the Brahms’ Trio. “I conceived of this piece as a kind of prelude, a piece that would set the stage and lead in to the main event,” said Lim. “Trio in Cb makes allusions to Brahms that can be heard in the figurations, the distorted scales, and hints of the tonic. I also took particular interest in how the thematic material of Brahms lends itself easily to geometric dis-/reassembling, and it is in this regard that the piece most closely resembles Brahms.”
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s trio of musicians for these concerts includes Eric Zivian (piano) Tanya Tomkins (cello), and Anna Presler (violin). “Brahms Piano Trio is one of my favorite pieces to play. Its blend of lyricism, playfulness, and structure is so satisfying,” said Anna Presler, LCCE Artistic Director. “Jennifer Jolley and Kenneth Lim's new piano trios reflect on the Brahms from different angles. These will be lovely additions to the repertoire.”