Trios for Two

viola + 21st century one-man-band
Casey Cangelosi
Karl Blench
Daniel Corral
Christopher Goddard
Ingrid Lee
Molly Gebrian
Danny Holt
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Los Angeles, CA

Release Date: 
Sep 22, 2017
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

In this era of having to stretch resources and do more with less, one pair of musicians has succeeded in increasing productivity by exactly 50%. They have pushed their duo into trio territory and musical boundaries similarly fall by the wayside. While the violist, Molly Gebrian, remains devoted to her one instrument, the bump in yield is thanks to the super powers of Danny Holt who is equally adept at both piano and percussion, and with the normal number of limbs, deftly employs them and mental acrobatics to wild musical results.

Holt’s integration of piano and percussion must be seen to be believed–ranging from incredibly subtle to absurdly virtuosic, pushing the performer to extremes. According to Holt, the idea “stems from my passion for innovation and what might be described as a sense of playful creative restlessness–a somewhat obsessive need to push myself beyond what I already know I am capable of.”

Since there was previously no music for the unusual instrumentation of viola and solo piano/percussion, Gebrian and Holt have taken it upon themselves to build an entirely new repertoire. The half dozen works heard here on Trios for Two are among their commissions. The whole project is at once an innovative experiment, a beautiful and sometimes ridiculous spectacle, and also the result of a twenty-year friendship. Gebrian and Holt first met as teenagers at a summer music camp in Connecticut, and more than two decades later that friendship blossomed into an intense musical collaboration. Now based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Desert Hot Springs, California, respectively, Gebrian and Holt come together every year to expand the Trios to Two project–commissioning, performing, and recording new works.

Among the works on the album are Second Take by Karl Blench, a work inspired by a previous trio that was never performed thanks to the volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010; Ultramarine by Daniel Corral that combines two kinds of blue: 12-bar blues and a pigment found in ancient Afghan caves; the electronic-inspired textures of Ingrid Lee’s Nomentum; and the dramatic subtext of Third Nature by Christopher Goddard that he describes as: “The violist, pitted against a performer wearing two different hats, seeks to reconcile the two as they spar with one another over the course of the work. While they are placated from time to time, the characters inevitably descend into a frenzied battle, only to emerge without a victor; the mediator is then left to humbly remark on the futility of their efforts.”

Danny Holt has been called “the classical music equivalent of an extreme sports athlete” (The Record) and Gramophone called his Fast Jump album (Innova Recordings, 2009) “a compelling showcase for Holt's innate virtuosity and gregarious temperament.” Known as a champion of adventurous new music, Holt has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Blue Man Group, Bang on a Can All-Stars, California EAR Unit, and the Calder Quartet, among others.

Molly Gebrian has worked closely with the violist Garth Knox, Ensemble Intercontemporain and Pierre Boulez. She holds degrees in viola performance and neuroscience from Rice University, New England Conservatory and Oberlin College and Conservatory. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Viola and Music Theory at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.



"A repertoire built to enhance the uniqueness of the duo formed by the acrobatic Danny Holt, pianist and percussionist in the same person - see for yourself! - and the versatile violist Molly Gebrian, is at the center of this original recording project by Innova Recordings. We start with Theatric N. 8 by Casey Cangelosi, in which a contagious groove is produced in minimalist progressions that suggest a metropolitan and electrifying atmosphere. In Second Take by Karl Blench, powerful strokes of piano and percussion are the background to the declamatory, and ultimately painful, song of viola. Ultramarine by Daniel Corral returns to a frenetic pulsation, enhanced by the percussive use of the viola, but interspersed with more abstract and environmental moments. The dialogue between the musicians becomes complicated, sometimes conflicting, in Third Nature by Christopher Goddard, where Ingird Lee explores further possibilities of timbre and fusion with electronics. The two movements of the final and most recent piece - being dated 2015, while the others were all composed in 2010 -, Chiayu's Black and White, are opposed - according to the author's indications - such as white and black, the yang and yin: so delicate and lyrical is the first, how dynamic and powerful the latter is. Exclamation point of a CD not to be missed." - Filippo Focosi


"Trios for Two is representative of the kinds of new works that can be written for innovative musical projects, and those works deftly showcase each musician’s dynamic skill and musicality. At just over an hour, the album’s tracks are an interesting variety of works that don’t become stagnant. One can imagine that seeing the duo live would be a treat, but the album itself does not disappoint." [FULL ARTICLE] - Tracy Monaghan