Amelia Piano Trio Review by Gary R. Lemco

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Amelia Piano Trio Review by Gary R. Lemco

Post by Lance » Wed May 09, 2012 1:27 am

The Amelia Piano Trio

Casual Perfection: The Amelia Piano Trio
Review by Gary R. Lemco

SAN JOSE CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY brought its 2011-2012 season to a glorious conclusion Friday, May 4, with the appearance of the Amelia Piano Trio (formed 1999)—Andrew Armstrong, piano; Anthea Kreston, violin; and Jason Duckles, cello—at Le Petit Trianon Theatre, San Jose, with music by Beethoven and Rachmaninov. Two Beethoven Piano Trios—his E-flat Major, Op. 1, No. 1 and the Piano Trio No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 97 “Archduke”—served as immense pillars to a musical temple that enshrined the youthfully passionate G Minor “Trio elegiaque” of the nineteen-year-old Serge Rachmaninov.

The Beethoven E-flat Major Trio (1793; published 1795), while bearing much of the Haydn ethos, already indicates the strong personality of its creator. Rife with Mannheim Rocket figures, the four movements carry that combination of audacity, willfulness, and wit that will mark the entire Beethoven oeuvre. Crisp attacks and canny articulation characterized every measure of the Amelia’s performance, a sense of balanced ensemble in which we could plainly hear the sheer enjoyment each member’s contribution brings to the others. At times, we could discern in Beethoven’s part-writing, vestiges of the Baroque trio sonata, as violin and cello paired off, and the keyboard suavely supported the layered strings in the manner of a figured bass or basso ostinato. We noted, quite soon, the voluptuous quality of Mr. Duckles’ cello, an instrument he later revealed to be a 1938 Lecchi of superior tone. Ms. Kreston’s violin, too, could soar most eloquently in those solo passages Beethoven assigns her, or in concert with Mr. Armstrong’s potent keyboard realization of estimably Classical periods in the A-flat Major Adagio cantabile, a rondo setting the main theme in three distinct textures. The Finale: Presto enjoyed thoroughly plastic rhythms and an unbuttoned humor quite in keeping with Beethoven’s natural irreverence and confidence.

Rachmaninov’s one-movement Piano Trio No. 1 in G Minor {“Elegiac”} (1892) bears an unmistakable kinship to the music of Tchaikovsky, particularly to his ownTrio in A minor, Op. 50 and the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23. The opening Lento lugubre set the tone of unremitting melancholy, followed by a symmetrical exposition of twelve episodes that find an emotional symmetry in the recapitulation. The con anima and appassionata episodes bore the marks both of Rachmaninov’s romantic gloom and that national, Slavic character of his older colleague Rimsky-Korsakov. Kreston, especially, struck many poignant chords with her impassioned playing; and when Armstrong delivered his huge runs or block chords, we felt completely mesmerized by the sheer intensity of the composer’s youthful ardor. The final movement, risoluto, cast the main theme as a funeral march or solemn hymn, so it seemed entirely appropriate to ascribe to the music a “visionary” anticipation of the deaths of both Tchaikovsky (in 1893) and the Russia the composer knew (in 1917).

The second half Beethoven again dominated, with his “symphony for piano trio,” the 1811 “Archduke” Trio in B-flat Major, dedicated to Archduke Rudolf of Austria. Huge and expansive, it often seemed that Beethoven had taken a page from Schubert’s notebook on style, breaking up his elongated theme into meandering, melodic bits of soft tissue for deft and various treatment. A moment of Schubert occurs, moreover, in the landler character of the Scherzo’s secondary theme. Marvelous color effects marked this realization of Beethoven’s mighty score: witness the interplay of legato piano ariosi over pointed pizzicati in the two strings. Pianist Armstrong’s measured opening to the poignant Andante cantabile, ma pero con moto third movement conveyed all of the depth of feeling we ascribe to and draw from the late piano sonatas, except here the expanded intimacy of the strings only intensified the valediction. The gleeful Allegro moderato last movement synthesized Beethoven’s impetuous bluster with his innate singing style, having interrupted the soulful slow movement with his intrusive impudence and Homeric humor. All of Beethoven’s many moods and imaginative audacities had been executed with nothing short of congenial mastery by our three young soloists who had blended so artfully this evening. ♫

Dr. Gary R. Lemco regularly contributes to
Classical Music Guide. He resides in California.

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