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There was a good turnout in the intimate Sunrise Theater for the third concert of four in the Classical Concert Series of the Arts Council of Moore County. Trio Solisti presented an enterprising program of three piano trios, a rarity by Joaquín Turina (1882-1949), a core work by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), and a too seldom-programmed transitional work by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47). Since CVNC last reviewed the ensemble, they have a new pianist, Adam Neiman, replacing Jon Klibonoff. The founding members are violinist Maria Bachmann and cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach.
Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz enabled the younger Turina to study in Paris where he worked with Vincent D'Indy and was influenced by Debussy, Ravel, and Fauré. The flavor of each of these haunts his Piano Trio No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 76 (1933), the middle of three mature trios. Its three movements are, Lento, allegretto, molto moderato, Molto vivace, and Lento, Andante mosso, allegro. The first movement is in the sonata form with contrasting themes alternating between minor and major keys. The second movement, a scherzo, is dominated by a typical Spanish dance meter of 5/8 and features what program annotator Diane Deitz Repp calls "a bright countermelody and a languid trio." The cyclic style of D'Indy is evident in the rousing finale, which consists of seven strongly contrasted sections during which themes from the first movement are recapitulated.
The Trio Solisti made the strongest possible case for Turina. They brought out the somewhat schizoid nature of the first movement in which the texture of the piece alternates between the clear, light scoring of Fauré or Ravel and the thicker one of D'Indy. Both Bachmann and Gerlach played with excellent intonation and fine tone. With the Steinway's lid fully raised, Neiman showed extraordinary sensitivity as he balanced his dynamics with that of his colleagues. He displayed a fine palette of tonal color.
Along with Ravel and Shostakovich Second, Beethoven's Piano Trio in B-flat, Op. 97, is the towering core of the repertoire, closely followed by those of Brahms and Mendelssohn. It was composed in March 1811, a period of transition between the old age dominated by the aristocracy and the rise of support from the middle class. According to Melvin Berger in Guide to Chamber Music. Beethoven "substituted a new gemüchtlichkeit, a warm, emotional style with broadly-sung, moderately-paced melodies and appealing dance rhythms" for his earlier heroic style. It is one of many works dedicated to the Archduke Rudolph, the younger brother of the Austrian emperor. The Archduke was not only a major patron of Beethoven but also a student and one of the few to sustain a long-lasting friendship with the prickly composer. The spacious opening movement has an air of great nobility and deeply moving expression. The lively "scherzo" which follows has a rhythm suggestive of a Ländler or country dance. The slow third movement is a set of five related variations on a serene hymn-like theme. The bubbling high spirits and wit of the finale provide the strongest possible contrast to the preceding Andante.
The interpretation of the Trio Solisti was contemplative and spacious with perfect balance between strings and keyboard. Bachmann's and Gerlach's intonation and stylish phrasing were all one could desire. Neiman's piano playing just went from strength to strength. The ensemble has clearly melded well in the short time they have been playing together.
After intermission, the Trio Solisti played a superb performance of Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66. Most touring trios in our area have tended to play the composer's first trio so this choice was most welcome. Mendelssohn seems to wed the best of the older classical style with its precise formal structure to the new Romantic sensibility for emotions and melodies over formal design. This trio is in four movements, a broadly singing but tightly composed Allegro energico e con fuoco, an Andante espressivo that is a seamless "song without words," a sparkling scherzo typical of the composer's fairy music, and a concluding Allegro appassionata that includes a solemn chorale which, according to Berger, "Eric Werner has traced back to "Vor Deinen Thron," from the 1551 Geneva Psalter." The climax makes the utmost demands on the strength of any piano trio's players. The Trio Solisti met every challenge, and music lovers ought to look forward to their return to our state's series presenters.