The Verdehr Trio is among the more unusual chamber ensembles before the public today, from the instrumental combination -- violin, clarinet, and piano -- to the repertory, which mainly consists of contemporary works and arrangements of chamber pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and other well-known composers from the past. The group has commissioned over 200 works for performance, many from some of the most prominent composers of the twentieth and twenty first centuries, including Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, Alan Hovhaness, Gian Carlo Menotti, Karel Husa, Thea Musgrave, and Gunther Schuller. It has also stepped into the orchestral realm, performing concertos written for it such as the Triple Concertos by David Ott and William Wallace. Not all of the repertory, however, is modern or transcriptive: the Verdehr players have performed original works for their exact instrumental combination by Bartók, Berg, Khachaturian, Milhaud, Poulenc, Stravinsky, and others. They have made numerous recordings over the years for several labels, including Crystal Records, New World Records, Leonarda, and Dux Records.
The Verdehr Trio was formed in 1972 by Michigan State University faculty members violinist Walter Verdehr and his wife, clarinetist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr. Pianist Gary Kirkpatrick, also a faculty member, became the third player. In 1977 the ensemble, with the help of the university, began commissioning new compositions. From about this time the Verdehr players began to actively work toward creating a new medium for their instrumental combination via revival, arrangement, and commissions. They have thus far amassed over 230 works and have performed them throughout the U.S., South America, Europe, the Far East, and Australia. As part of this effort, the Verdehr Trio launched a recording project entitled The Making of a Medium. Crystal Records issued the first CD in this series in 1993, containing works by Bartók, Pasatieri, Hovhaness, Frescobaldi, and Mozart. Through 2007 there have been 17 volumes in the project, covering a vast range of repertory, with most issues drawing positive critical response. A corresponding video series has also been issued and excerpts from it were broadcast on PBS in 2003. In the new century Silvia Roederer, a faculty member at Western Michigan University, joined the Verdehr Trio as pianist. Among the group's newer recordings -- one that is not a part of the Making of a Medium series -- is the 2007 Dux Records CD Music from France, containing works by Poulenc, Milhaud, Saint-Saëns, and others.