Interview with the Chekhov Trio

14 Nov 2022

Written by: The Chekhov Trio speak with Eileen Stevens

We appreciate your finding the time to answer a few questions for our readers. The Chekhov Trio is international, with one player from the United States, one from Belgium and one from the Netherlands. That makes inspiring to see how you support and promote the work of Dutch composers like Hans Kox and Henriette Bosmans. 

How did you first encounter Theo’s music? 

In the summer of 2021, we participated in the Orlando Festival’s European Summer Course for Chamber Music, where we worked with the Osiris Trio. The members of the ensemble were all big proponents of Dutch composers, and when we asked for recommendations of pieces to add to our repertoire, violinist Peter Brunt immediately suggested for us to look into Theo Verbey’s Trio. It so happens that Emma was a student of Verbey’s course “Analysis of Contemporary Music” at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, so she had already been exposed to his work. This connection gave us another reason to get to know his trio.

How have your friends reacted to Theo Verbeys Trio? How have audiences reacted?

From beginning to end, we felt the audience had its attention glued to the music. We could tell by the stillness of the audience how attentively they were listening; at different points we even heard some gasps and chuckles! People in the audience described the piece as “very captivating” and having a very “unique language that was unmistakably Verbey’s.”

As a group, you aim to communicate narrative and dialogue through your explorations of characters and roles within the music you perform. Can you describe that process for us? Were there any specific characters you encountered while playing Theos Trio?

This is at the very core of our rehearsal process. It is about understanding our role in the context of the music, for instance knowing when to be on the musical foreground, when to have more of a supporting role and give space to the other voices, or even knowing when to “say” things as a group or to keep the musical conversation within the ensemble. This kind of work also implies finding the right kind of sound for each moment: is it supposed to make a big impact and sound thunderous and orchestral? Is it meant as a more intimate conversation? Is it an internal monologue that is appearing in the midst of a moment of tension? It is this kind of understanding of the context that is so fascinating to us and something that actors spend their lives doing: getting into the skin of the character they are playing.

Working on Verbey’s Trio was especially interesting and fun to work with because of the large variety of scenarios he presents us with: worlds of fantasy, scenes of mystery mixed with rage, and other moments filled with cheeky humor or even a cold and sinister plot.

And, what’s next on the horizon for you? 

We are thrilled to share that we will be releasing our first CD this November with trios by Henriëtte Bosmans, Ernest Chausson and Frank Martin. It is especially exciting for us to present the first ever recording of Bosmans’ Trio. The piece was written in 1921, but does not get performed very often. Bosmans’ music is currently experiencing a revival, and we think this trio deserves to be up there in the spotlight with her other very interesting chamber music works. The trio by Chausson has a lot of depth and the one by Martin is very fun and energetic, so the three pieces together make a diverse and very well-fitting CD program.

Other exciting news includes a concert tour organized by the Orlando Festival and Squire Artists which started in October at the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam and will end in December at Bozar in Brussels. In this tour, we have been performing works from the repertoire of our CD, but also works by Gade, Verbey and Westerlinck. Our tour will come to an end at Bozar, where we will also perform one of our favorites: Schumann’s Third Piano Trio.

In the coming year, we are looking forward to preparing and performing new repertoire, like the majestic second Piano Trio by Schubert and Verklärte Nacht by Schoenberg. We are also very happy to continue our journey with Verbey’s Trio next season!

We hope we can all look forward to attending a live performance of the Chekhov Trio soon, hopefully including a performance Theo Verbeys Trio!