The Calyx Piano Trio consists of Nina Ferrigno, piano, Catherine French, violin, and our own Greenville native, Jennifer Lucht, cello.

The aggressively modern-music set-up of Calyx’s instruments produces a pianissimo sound perfect for the superb acoustic of John O’Brien’s Music House concert room. Such was the opening sound of the Poco sostenuto of Beethoven’s Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 2. That difficult first soft note was the only shaky point in an afternoon consisting of otherwise rock-solid musicianship. These three powerhouse musicians play perfectly with each other, what with their strong eye contact and the perfectly synchronized bowing of Lucht and French. The Allegretto is such a cute little movement, perfectly understood by the trio. The third movement, Allegretto ma non troppo, is, for Beethoven, soothing and almost lullaby-like. Lucht’s singing cello was perfect for this sweet music. The Finale, Allegretto tumbled headlong to its conclusion, yelling and screaming like “opera singers.” The interesting blurred lines of Beethoven were exploited and expanded by Calyx.

The Beethoven was followed by the 1997 composition “Tapestries,” by Richard Festinger (b.1948); this is a difficult piece, scrupulously performed, with relish, by Calyx. The composition sounded to me like Katzenjammer wannabe Gerschwin.

Although Calyx has a strongly-expressed commitment to the most modern music, I think they really came into their own with Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49 (1839). The Molto allegro ed agitato was played with sure confidence and strong emotional force. Lucht’s cello was in fine singing form. Mendelssohn is the master of the thick and complex passage that suddenly opens like a hole in the storm clouds, to reveal the sun. You know you want it.

Ferrigno was playing one of the dozen or so resident keyboards at the Music House, a beautiful 1887 Steinway Model C. It’s a nice instrument, with brilliant singing treble, not the skeleton xylophone rattle of so many otherwise fine pianos. Ferrigno’s playing of it was a perfect companion to French’s and Lucht’s eye-to-eye focus and (again!) their perfectly synchronized bowing. Calyx is the epitome of professionalism.

The piano alone begins the third movement, Scherzo: Leggiero e vivace; the three repeated notes at the beginning become a repeated theme even before the violin and cello enter. Ferrigno had the entire range of keyboard expression, from forceful to extremely delicate, under complete control. Though Lucht is our own home-grown native, she has escaped from the plow-mule plodding that frequently characterizes Pitt County string playing. The ending of the Scherzo was particularly delicate.

The Finale: Allegro assai appassionato begins with the well-known organ-toned sonorities prominent in the cello and piano. All three Calyx players have the old-time mountain fiddlers’ complete lack of expression in their faces; their expression streams out in the music; they enjoy a complete communion of spirit.

Concerts at the Music House enrich the entire season. For details, see our calendar.