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The Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, founded in Greenville but long since extending to the Triangle and beyond, is one of the leading providers of chamber music in many formats. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the festival has also added "Four Seasons Community," an outreach program making chamber music accessible to elementary schools and retirement communities. In between this outreach, workshops for young musicians, and tours, there is the Classic Series, which could be considered the center of the festival's programs. Presented at Hayes Barton Methodist Church, "A Tradition of Individuals" featured three very different piano trios, offering the question of who the "individuals" are – the composers or the three musicians?
Regardless of the title's interpretation, the three artists on the program – pianist Peter Frankl, violinist (also founder and artistic director of Four Seasons) Ara Gregorian, and cellist Natasha Brofsky – played beautifully both individually and together. Gregorian's unapologetic expression and Brofsky's fierce demeanor played well in their tandem phrases throughout the concert. Meanwhile, Frankl played many roles in the three trios: at times as the centerpiece, supportive bass, or sparkling ornaments. Arranged chronologically, the program began with Haydn's Piano Trio No. 43, a pleasing C major romp. The three musicians handled the first movement's intricacy with an even keel that continued through the languid Andante movement. The Finale has only a few moments of unpredictability, but plenty of difficulty ensemble-wise with its short, spurting phrases.
Contrasting the lighthearted string dialogue in the Haydn, Beethoven's Piano Trio No. 6 opens with an angry conversation in cello and violin, intensified by riveting diminished chords in the piano. Visceral phrasing and expression weave through all four movements, in not only the serene and flowing middle movements but also in the exuberant, unpredictable Finale.
Schumann's Piano Trio No. 1 heightens emotions even further, beginning with a stormy, rolling piano and accented melody in the strings. Despite these differing textures, the way that Gregorian, Brofsky, and Frankl meshed their instruments together was marvelous. The second movement is slightly more lighthearted by way of expression, although an ominously lilting motif appears later. The laborious, aching third movement featured the unique relationship of Greogrian and Brofsky playing intertwining yet independent melodic lines, moving without pause to the fiery shout of the final movement. After a propelling accelerando, the glorious ending finally arrives, a "Triumph of Individuals."
Note: This was the last of three performances of this program.