Trio Solisti at Maverick

Another summer Sunday, another magnificent day at Maverick Concerts in Woodstock, NY.  Last Sunday was Maverick’s annual performance by Trio Solisti, a piano trio whose members are brilliant artists at their craft. To make things even better, the program was exceptionally wonderful:

Fantasy Pieces for Piano Trio, Op. 88
Robert Schumann
Romanze – Not fast, with affection
Humoreske – Lively
Duett – Slow and with expression
Finale – In march time

Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 8
Frédéric Chopin
Allegro con fuoco
Scherzo: Con moto, ma non troppo
Adagio sostenuto
Finale. Allegretto

Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66
Felix Mendelssohn
Allegro energico e con fuoco
Andante espressivo
Scherzo: Molto allegro quasi presto
Finale: Allegro appassionato

The first movement of Schumann’s piano trio opens in a subdued but deeply moving way. The movement has gorgeous harmonies and a tenderness about it. The second movement is quite the opposite; it’s an energetic movement full of pizzicato notes. Midway there is a section of immense beauty with melting legato notes before the music returns to the short, sharp notes of its opening. Even the pizzicato notes have an elegance, however, and a stateliness along with an impish playfulness. The music is also full of drama and tension, and it’s quite exhilarating. Violin and cello have a delightful conversation with each other, at one point each instrument mimicking the other. The third movement opens quietly with piano in the background, flowing and tinkling like raindrops on a river. Cello begins playing shortly thereafter, smoothly and from the shadows. Violin then joins as well, and cello and violin recite a conversation in this movement as well, although this time as companions. With four slow repeating notes played by all three instruments the movement is over, and the fiery final movement has its time. The last movement is full of passion and life. The music is incredibly vibrant; it’s nimble at times as it darts through bars, forceful at times as it surges onward and upward, and sweetly lyrical at yet other moments. Towards the end the listener is lulled into a false sense of sensitivity before the piece flies to a dazzling and swift finish.

The Allegro movement that opens Chopin’s piano trio is thrilling. Piano begins with a dark moodiness and is forceful, playing strong chords between equally strong silences. Meanwhile, violin and cello play with similar strength, although less dominantly so. The two stringed instruments flow and ebb. The ending is wild, however, bows flying with fury to close. The second movement is complex, with multiple layers of sound being created by the trio of piano, violin, and cello. The music is rapturing and I got so caught up in it that I forgot all else. My mind became a blank canvas, waiting to be colored by the magnificent music emanating from the stage. The third movement spotlights beautiful and brilliantly lyrical melodies by violin and cello, and I found myself desperately clinging onto every glorious note. The fourth movement has interesting syncopations and rhythms, and it progresses with a sense of seriousness and finality. Increasing in tempo and power as it draws near the end, the closing of the final movement is very fast and thrilling. Piano runs up the keyboard as violin and cello increase in intensity until bursting to an end. Within moments the crowd showed their enthusiasm and awe by rising to their feet (yes, before intermission) or sitting and stomping their feet, creating vibrations on the wood floor of the Maverick hall.

The program kept getting better, if possible… For the second half, Trio Solisti performed Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2. Set in the disconcerting key of C Minor, the piano trio opens with turbulence and unrest. The music contains an intensity that blankets the listener, but never stifles. The opening movement also contains moments of unspeakable gentle beauty, all the more powerful because of their contrast to the force of the rest of the movement (which is beautiful in its own way, one that is much sadder and broken). The drama of the lengthy first movement is intoxicating. After being full of fire the music ebbs temporarily, cello sliding low into its bass notes, before the music flashes into a fit of fury to close with dazzling glory. The second movement is sweetly played, a beautiful duet sounded by violin and cello as piano provides support for the two. Throughout that movement — and the entire piece — the piano is certainly more than simply an accompaniment, however. Like the violin and cello, the piano is an individual and has a presence separate from the ensemble. Mendelssohn’s music has a wonderful balance between separate parts and their sum as a whole, a balance which is satisfying beyond measure. The scherzo third movement is shifty, the notes at first seeming not fully there. They’re heard as though through a fog, rapid and somewhat indistinct. The notes do eventually grow in strength, but continue to return to their mysterious surrealism, and plucked notes bring the movement to a close. The closing movement brims with everything the piece contains in all its earlier movements, and then some. It’s delicate, bold, shy, and beckoning. Midway, a choral hymn is heard, at first simply before becoming decorated with additional notes and evolving into a more emotionally charged form. It’s elegant and majestic, the tones golden, before darkness creeps its way in. Before you realize it, the music has become black as a moonless night. It changes once more, however, the black and gold tones intertwining in an enthralling way. The music then quiets briefly before it increases in tension as the end draws near, piano crashing, violin and cello climbing higher and higher. The music reaches to the heavens and beyond, and just when you think it can’t get any more exciting it becomes wildly momentous, quite literally flying to a fantastic finish.

Being at a concert by Trio Solisti means you’re witness to a beautiful circle of being: the musicians feed the music, the music feeds the audience, and the audience in turn feeds the musicians. The cycle repeats, time after time, and it’s moving to behold and be a part of. I imagine the playing of Trio Solisti has the power to tame the wildest beast and also ignite the tamest of hearts. The music on the program could have been horribly dry and boring had it been in the wrong hands. Luckily for the audience at Maverick — and the memory of the composers — it was the spellbinding Trio Solisti that was playing, a group that truly raises the music from its slumber on the sheets and gives it life in a grand way.

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