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9.11.04

Trio Solisti

With people in Washington glued to their television sets and high-speed Internet connections, a few criminally apolitical souls turned out at the Kennedy Center for either the ill-fated troubadour or the Trio Solisti at the Terrace Theater. I went to see the latter that Tuesday, November 2, where a mercifully short introduction by Neale Perl, President of the Washington Performing Arts Society, was followed by the entry of Mlles. Bahman, Gerlach, and Mr. Klibonoff on violin, cello, and piano, respectively.

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J. Brahms, Complete Trios, Beaux Arts Trio
Playing to a third of capacity (the disenfranchised and/or disenchanted or those in search of merciful sanity) the three American performers delivered the Brahms Trio in B major (No. 1, op. 8), a genial chamber work, indeed. The flashy and rapturous finale of the first movement always draws applause, even from crowds that know it isn't the end of the work.

Fierce passion was ample in the first movement, and the second was devoid of unnecessary lingering, letting the haunting melody speak for itself rather than clumsily interpreting on top of it. Wrapped into a stormy finale, the whole thing was a worthy affair, and not just for the fact that the fronting music-making ladies are delightfully easy on the eye.

My personal highlight (though it is indeed difficult to beat a live performance of the Brahms) was the Paul Moravec trio named Mood Swings. Mr. Moravec, long championed by Terry Teachout, is devastatingly young for a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (he won't turn 50 for another couple of years), which naturally has me green with envy. But unfortunately nothing bad can be said about his music. In fact, it's quite outstanding: tonal but not backwards, easy on the ears but never lacking in depth, conservative but far from old-fashioned. "Making ordinary experience extraordinary" is his idea of a composer’s mission. The means to that is—hold your breath—simply mak[ing] beautiful music." Thirty years ago such a statement would have gotten him thrown out of every self-respecting conservatory.

Just like his Pulitzer Price-winning “Tempest Fantasy”, Mood Swings was dedicated to the Trio Solisti who premiered the work in 1999. It was superb fun, followed by more fun:

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Ravel, Faure, Debussy, Piano Trios, Florestan Trio (Hybrid SACD)
Ravel’s Trio in A-minor is a world of color. The opening sounds like the cadenza to a concerto, and the more whimsical development of the first movement spells out intimacy until a thunderstorm of chords and scurrying string notes break in. With never-ending notes on violin and cello, it exhales slowly. A last subtle spark in form of a pizzicato whisper from the cello marks the point of expiration.

The turbulent second movement (Pantoum) is almost raunchy while the third, a passacaglia, is essentially a set of nine variations on the opening theme, demarked by the pianist's left hand in the very basement of his instrument. It goes from somber to somber with structural shifts between, ending exactly as it started. As Eric Bromberger's notes point out, the second variation for violin with piano chords brooding underneath it is ravishing. I particularly liked the tense drama of variation six. How the movement fits into the piece as such, I cannot make out, but it's such a beaut that I won't ask questions. The finale is wild and crazy (as if from Bratislava) with sheer endless trills. Restlessness in music, splendidly performed by the Trio Solisti as was the entire evening’s music... with visible joy on their faces.

Let people foam at the mouths in their rabid pursuit of partisan politics, I vote for music over it all, any day. The encore—dedicated to the election—was a choice pick: "It ain't necessarily so!" Amen.

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