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The appropriately-named third concert in Ruggero Piano's Overtones Chamber Music Summer Series, "Three for All," featured three artists playing such a variety of trio repertoire that would truly suit anyone's preference. Held in Bösendorfer Hall, this performance concluded a trio of concerts planned for this summer. Cellist Bonnie Thron, clarinetist Fred Jacobowitz, and pianist Anatoly Larkin journeyed through a program of trios that spanned nearly two centuries, from effervescent Beethoven to Piazzolla's boldly romantic tango.
Most classical music concertgoers in Raleigh have surely heard Thron play one way or another – she's been the NC Symphony's principal cellist since 2000 and has played with many of the prominent chamber music ensembles in the Triangle. It is always a delight to witness and hear her playing in more intimate settings. Thron also happens to be married to Jacobowitz, who is an active and multifaceted teacher and performer here as well. Larkin, with his expertise in music technology and recording, navigated the tricky balance of sound among and between the three instruments, positioning them just so on stage.
Beethoven's sprightly Trio in B-flat, Op. 11, first brought the word "balance" to mind – a huge portion of the first movement involves the three instruments bouncing motives (rhythmic, melodic, or both) amongst themselves. The result is a study in timbre and articulation that the three musicians made seem effortless. The third movement, a theme and variations using the popular melody "Pria ch'io l'impegno" ("Before I go to work") from a Weigl opera, is a romp among textures. Soft, even timid phrases give way to heavy accents without warning, and even the meter changes for an unpredictable effect. Soft, even timid phrases give way to heavy accents without warning, and even the meter changes for an unpredictable effect.
Moving into more tonally unpredictable territory, Fauré's Trio in D minor, Op. 120, and Muczynski's Fantasy Trio pushed the bar for balance further. In the former, Thron and Jacobowitz played often in an interesting, throaty unison with unfurling urgency propelled by Larkin at the piano. The meandering Andantino featured cello and clarinet in homophony, before diving into the exuberant final movement. In similar form, Muczynski's 1969 work ends with a sudden celebration in rolling triple after three ominous, murky movements before. The piano's bass line here was quite reminiscent of a film score, which was a great segue to the next piece on the program.
Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion," written for the 1984 Italian drama film Enrico IV, quickly falls into classic tango rhythm, led by the piano. Above, Jacobowitz and Thron held the lyrical, romantic melody, with full vibrato in the strings. "Libertango," from 1974, is more complex and unbridled; each member of the trio had an independent theme. All of a sudden, the texture becomes sparse, and individual staccati come together to build the beat. This is a compelling effect, but even more so it showcased the strong, internally shared rhythm by Jacobowitz, Larkin, and Thron, wrapping up a seamless concert.