Trio con Brio Copenhagen at Bard

This past Saturday night I attended a classical concert by Trio con Brio Copenhagen at Bard College. I believe I have seen the trio once before, although I can’t remember for sure. Trio con Brio Copenhagen was founded in Vienna in 1999, and is comprised of sisters Soo-Jin Hong (violin) and Soo-Kyung Hong (cello), and Jens Elvekjaer on piano. I didn’t particularly enjoy the concert, as I was not impressed or riveted by their playing.

Trio con Brio Copenhagen opened the evening with a work by the composer Bent Sorensen. His piece, titled “Phantasmagoria”, was commisioned by the International Franz Schubert Society of Denmark, and was dedicated to Trio con Brio Copenhagen. I was a bit bored by the first movement, and there was nothing about it that stuck in my head. (Well, nothing except for my boredom that is…). I’m afraid I wasn’t the only one who was bored either… A man sitting in the row behind me fell asleep during the piece and was snoring rather loudly. It took a good deal of my energy to refrain from laughing. The second movement of “Phantasmagoria” had a few nice sections, the third I liked well enough, the fourth was nothing worth mentioning, and the fifth was the only movement which had some lovely melody lines. The composer wrote about his piece, “The five movements are full of shadows of all kinds. Shadows of fragments and traces of movements appear in other movements. Music, voices, instruments appear behind each other as a play of shadows….” As a whole, I thought the piece was more like a cloud of fog. Not one that enveloped me either, but rather, one that threatened to suffocate me…

Next, Trio con Brio Copenhagen played Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49. I was hoping that they’d win my heart with this piece, but they didn’t. I thought it was nice, but that was about it. (Besides, that has more to do with the talent of Medelssohn than the trio’s playing. It shows that Mendelssohn’s music sounds good, even when the musicians playing it aren’t). It is such a beautiful, beautiful work, that to not feel anything (except for boredom during this one as well) was dissapointing. Furthermore, even if I could forgive the trio for their lack of passion, their is no excuse for the fact that their timing was not together.

For the second half of the program, Trio con Brio Copenhagen took the stage once more, this time to play Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor. Perhaps they got it together during intermission, for I was once again hoping they’d win my heart, and at long last they did. The first movement, Modere, starts out with piano, before violin and cello join. The melody is quite striking, and the piece has a duality which I find fascinating. It is full of warmth, yet also yields a certain coldness at the same time. The opening of the second movement, Pantoum: Asse vif, is mystical. It floats without obvious bars of music, just one long, never-ending line… The third movement, Passacaille: Tres, has ten variations. The variations passed swiftly and the end of the tenth one brought us to the final movement, Final: Anime, which ended with drama. When the piece was over, I was suprised to find that a number of people in the audience gave the trio a standing ovation, which I personally did not feel they deserved. As much as I enjoyed Ravel’s piano trio, it was a relief to finally come the the end of the concert. Perhaps the members of Trio con Brio Copenhagen were just having a bad night, but I’ll have to think twice about going to see them again.

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