The Claremont Trio (Emily Bruskin, violin; Julia Bruskin, cello; and Andrea Lam, piano) will release their next album, Queen of Hearts, on their Tria Records label on February 25, 2022 to celebrate their 20th anniversary. On the new album, the Claremont features music written especially for the band over the past fourteen years by six of today’s leading composers – Gabriela Lena Frank, Sean Shepherd, Judd Greenstein, Helen Grime, Nico Muhly and Kati Agócs.
Hailed as “one of America’s finest young chamber groups” (Strad Magazine), the Claremont Trio are sought after for their thrilling, virtuosic, and richly communicative performances. First-place winners of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award and the only piano trio to win the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the Claremont are consistently praised for their “aesthetic maturity, interpretive depth and exuberance” ( Palm Beach Daily News).
“For this album, we bring together works written for us since 2008 by composers of our generation. It almost feels like we grew up with these incredible artists, musically speaking, during these almost fifteen years,” said Julia Bruskin. “It is particularly moving to be able to share this music more widely through this recording, of the work done by and with friends, during this time of uncertainty continues. We hope that the spirit of collaboration and unity that has made these possible works will come to fruition.
Gabriela Lena Frank’s Four Folk Songs were written for the Claremont Trio in 2012 and are inspired by Peru, the homeland of the composer’s mother. She writes, “As an American-born Latina, much of my understanding of this small, yet culturally rich, Andean nation has necessarily been shaped from my private imagination from a young age. Travels frequent in Peru as an adult, always done with my mother, leaves me feeling like I belong to something bigger than me as I connect my private thoughts to existing reality.”
2011’s Sean Shepherd’s Trio is a three-movement piece, written for the first concerts held in Calderwood Hall at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which was designed by Renzo Piano. Shepherd was inspired by the architecture of space and describes the middle movement, “Calderwood”, as the emotional core of the work.
A Serious Man by Judd Greenstein, from 2013, was dedicated to the composer’s uncle, Bill Carroll. Greenstein describes his uncle as “one of the funniest people I’ve ever met” and as bringing “a seriousness to life that didn’t include taking himself too seriously”. The work premiered at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, not far from Detroit, where Greenstein’s uncle lived.
Helen Grime’s Three Whistler Miniatures, composed in 2011, is inspired by three chalk and pastel miniatures exhibited in the Veronese Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The evocative movements are named “The little note in yellow and gold”, “Lapis Lazuli” and “The purple note”. Grime writes, “Throughout the piece, the violin and cello form a sort of unity, which contrasts with the contrasting nature of the piano.”
Nico Muhly describes his 2008 piece Common Ground as employing three different repetitive techniques. He writes: “The first third of the piece is a cycle of stretching and contracting length chords, the violin and cello exchanging small, restless lines. The second is a pastoral obsession with essentially a chord: the changing light on a field… [Later,] the piano begins to sound out a ground bass – a repeating line around which the harmonies are constantly changing. This sort of thing appears in Purcell, where I first met him as an altar boy.”
Queen of Hearts by Kati Agócs, composed in 2017, was commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest for the Claremont Trio. Agócs describes the piece as being about the idea of resilience. She writes, “A life fully lived can encounter challenges that may seem insurmountable. The work’s structure of variation, in depicting tenacity and ingenuity – continually finding new ways to respond – ultimately reveals an inner strength and emotional core that remains steadfast and unwavering no matter what. how they are tested. The title Queen of Hearts is a whimsical reference to the “mother of higher love” card in a deck of playing cards. This card symbolizes resilience, magnetism, nobility, empathy, decorum, a flair for the dramatic, and a distinctly feminine power.”