Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio at Bard

I saw the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio at  Bard College on Saturday night. The trio consists of Joseph Kalickstein on piano, Jaime Laredo on violin, and Sharon Robinson on cello. I love piano trio’s and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio are superb, but I didn’t particularly enjoy their choice of program.

SERGEI RACHMANINOFF

Trio Elegiaque No. 1 in G Minor (1892)
Lento lugubre

KATHERINE HOOVER
El Andulus for Cello and Piano

JOAN TOWER
Piano Trio, “For Daniel”

RICHARD DANIELPOUR
Nocturne for Violin and Piano, “As Night Falls on Barjeantne”

PYOTR ILyICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50
Pezzo elegiaco: Moderato assai
Tema con variazioni – Finale e Coda

I found the program to be a bit extreme, it was too much of a stylistic shock. Especially hearing Katherine Hoover’s and and Joan Tower’s works after such a mournful and powerfully tragic piece as the Rachmaninoff…

Rachmaninoff was nineteen years old when he wrote Trio Elegiaque No. 1 (he later wrote a second Trio Elegiaque in memory of Tchaikovsky). Trio Elegiaque No. 1 opens softly with violin and cello, before the piano joins the two with the melody. The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio did a lovley job of playing the piece. The instruments played in glorious, yet neverending sadness… It is a stunning work, and I was thoroughly moved by it. 

Next was the piece which Katherine Hoover wrote for piano and cello. In the program, there were some notes by Katherine Hoover about it: “Traditional Arabic music, both religious and secular, is a sophisticated art form that is mostly improvised on complicated scalar and formal patterns. Ir makes use of quarter tones as well as modal materials more familiar to the Western ear. It’s influence is clear in Jewish liturgical music and also in some Eastern Orthodox Christian music. I combined some of this type of melodic material with sections that emply Western harmonies, and there are rythmic and formal influences from both traditions. There are also timbral sounds that have their origins in Eastern instruments. The piece begins with a snippet of Gregorian chant and quickly moves into material with roots in both East and West.” Sounds good on paper. Too bad it didn’t sound as good musically… I didn’t hear any of the things she described, and it was a bizzare and sudden change from the Rachmaninoff.

Joan Tower’s trio was written in memory of her nephew, Daniel MacArthur, who died at a young age in 2003. Although the work was supposed to convey the difficulties of facing a long term illness, I felt that it was a sparse piece of music and once again, I didn’t hear what was described by the composer in the program notes. I did like Richard Danielpour’s nocturne, it had some beautiful parts. It was written in impressionistic style, although it lacked the same depth as the music of impressionistic masters such as Debussy or Ravel.

Lastly was Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50. The piano opened with the melody, and soon the violin took over, as the piano’s role switched to the accomponiment. The cello joined the violin and they held the melody in turn, one continuously picking up where the other left off until finally, all three instruments played together as equals. As the music reached it’s summit, waves of grief and despair crashed among the walls of the room, enveloping my senses before lurching into my soul. And that was only the first movement… The second movement consisted of a theme, eleven variations, and a final coda. From the begginning of the second movement until right before the end of the coda, the music had a very different feel than the first movement. It was generally played in a more cheerful mood, yet at moments also held whispers of the darkness from the first movement. The coda ended quietly in the mother key of A Minor. When the piece was over, I scarcely dared breath for a few moments, as the soft echo of the last few exquisite notes resounded in my thumping heart. It’s incredible that music can have a physiological effect on one’s body, but it really can…

I enjoyed the Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky trio’s, respectively, and Richard Danielpour’s nocturne was pleasant, but I didn’t enjoy the other two pieces on the program. The theme tying the whole evening together was works that were written in memory of loss, but that was about the only thing that the five pieces had in common (and Richard Danielpours didn’t even have that in common with the others, although stylistically it fit in better than either Joan Tower’s or Katherine Hoover’s did). The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio are all excellent musicians, but I would have enjoyed myself much more had they chosen a different progam selection.

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