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Tapping Along With the Klavier Trio Amsterdam

The program notes to the Klaviertrio Amsterdam’s (KTA) performance at the Corcoran Gallery of Art this Friday, ever lucid and intelligently written by the Musical Evening Series’ chairwoman, Dr. Susan Joseph, opened with the bold claim that “[m]usic is not about progress.” I propose you wade through an entire year of ubiquitous Mozart and then reconsider, but meanwhile the three works on the program were supposed to support that point. Yet, highlighting the continuous appeal of Beethoven’s op. 70, no. 1 (“The Ghost”) with its innovative form – especially the first movement – vis-à-vis the later Brahms trio (no. 1, op. 8) and Fauré piano quartet, op. 15 (works much and justly beloved in their own right) only underscored the extraordinary position of Beethoven among composers… presumably because his music pushed new modes of expressiveness. It is our very 20th- and 21st-century understanding of classical music as a repertory art form that has, to a certain degree, divorced our appreciation of music from its progress.

The KTA’s performance, at any rate, did not concern itself with these matters – at least not on the surface of their stimulating rendition. A softly surging Largo in the Beethoven was especially appealing in a performance that was all one might expect (if lacking that wondrous ‘extra’ that makes for ultimate bliss) and compared favorably to the Peabody Trio’s performance last year. Although I would have loved to hear Klára Würtz (the nominal pianist and founding member of the KTA), it is questionable if she could have gotten more out of the Corcoran’s rickety Steinway B (an instrument that is more liability than asset for the Corcoran’s concerts, with its flattened and somewhat hazy, uneven sound) than her much appreciated substitute, Rob Mann – himself a founding member of the Amsterdam Piano Trio. His colleagues that night, who, together with Mme. Würtz are the founding members, were Joan Berkhemer (violin) and Nadia David (cello). Minor waywardness in individual notes not withstanding, the Brahms, too, was an assured joy. The Allegro con brio of this one trio alone would qualify Brahms for the pantheon of chamber music. The Andante celebrated the long melodies and led nicely to a busy closing Allegro.

Ludwig van Beethoven, op.70 / 1, First page of first movement, Piano Part

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G.Fauré, Piano Quartets,
Florestan Trio

The second half was dedicated to a work that is as beautiful as it is rarely performed: Fauré’s piano quartet. Adding his viola to the mix was none less than Ionarts-favorite and ex-Takács Roger Tapping. I noticed no deviation from his usual excellence, and everyone around him, too, seemed to have performed at a level that was another notch higher. The Scherzo, not easy to keep together with its cross-rhythms, bubbled with coherence.

With performers like the KTA/Tapping combination, the above argument of music and progress rephrases itself: music may still be insisted upon as being about progress – but everyone should on occasion be retrogressive and smell the flowers!

Roger Tapping will be back at the Corcoran for the remainder of the great Mozart quintets on March 3rd with the Parker String Quartet (Tower, Schumann) and May 12th with the Daedalus Quartet (Mendelssohn, Britten no. 2). The Takács will play at the Corcoran on March 31st (Mozart “Dissonance,” Bartók no. 2, Schubert “Death & Maiden”).