The Helios Piano Trio (John Fadial, violin; Beth Vanderborgh, cello; Chi-Chen Wu, piano) performed a trio of works Friday night as part of the Music for a Great Space, the next-to-last concert of the season. Fadial and Vanderborgh are no strangers to Triad audiences; the husband-wife team lived in the city for many years, taught at UNC-G and Guilford College, and played in the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra as well as the Eastern Music Festival.

The concert opened with the Piano Trio No. 4, Op. 90 B. 166 “Dumky” (1891) by Antonín Dvořák (Bohemia, 1841-1904). A prerecorded mini-interview (which has become a regular feature of the MGS series) between the Helios and MGS executive director Rebecca Willie was informative and allowed the audience a chance to learn something about the upcoming music as well as the musicians themselves. Fadial explained that the word “Dumky” comes from the Ukrainian work “Duma,” which refers to epic ballads that serve as a lament for captive people.

The six movements that comprise the piece alternate between “serious, kind of solemn material and then it will break into dance, folk-like material.” The Helios had never performed the piece before, although it is one of the “great pieces in the piano trio repertoire,” so they introduced it to the Greensboro audience (and themselves).

This is a wonderful work that showcased the musicality and virtuosity of the Helios. After a dramatic introduction by the piano and cello, the music gives way to a soulful duet between violin and cello, lovingly presented by Fadial and Vanderborgh; a sprightly section comes after, folk-like and full of energy. A myriad of moods and emotions follows, with slower passages interrupted by energetic outbursts.

The first three movements are connected without interruption. Combined with the final three movements, the overall impression is a “standard” four-movement construction. The music is a cornucopia of late Romantic harmonies, sudden changes in tempo, texture, and dynamics. The playing by the three musicians brought these features brilliantly to the fore.

The Spirit and the Maiden (2004) by Elena Kats-Chernin (Uzbekistan, b. 1957) is, as explained by Vanderborgh, an Uzbekistan folk tale that tells of a woman who approaches a well in which a spirit lives. The two make a connection, dancing and swimming together, until the maid is about to drown, whereupon the spirit turns her into a beautiful water lily.

The first movement depicts the maiden lugging her buckets to the well; energetic piano and cello, with evocative, lumbering lines from cello and violin never stray far from folk-like melodies. The sparkling piano accompaniment was superbly performed by Wu. The second movement, portraying a dance between the maiden and the spirit, is frenzied with undulating piano and short riffs from violin and cello with lots of color from the pizzicato sections.

The third movement features several repetitive cells as the maiden and spirit enter the well. A more animated section represents the maiden starting to succumb to the water; harmonics from the violin provide an unearthly sound—the music fades to a whisper, one supposes, as she becomes a waterlily. Mysterious beauty comes from the piano-cello melodies with “watery” piano accompaniment.

Ensemble throughout was first-rate, no simple matter, with the frequent changes in meter, dynamics, and tempo. The communication between the three musicians was palpable; one would be hard-pressed to find a more convincing performance.

The written program concluded with Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 (1839) by Felix Mendelssohn (Germany, 1807-1847). This trio is one of the composer’s most popular chamber works, and it is easy to see why. Wu explained that the first movement is dark and turbulent while the second movement is like his famous Songs Without Words: lyrical and beautiful. The third movement is “funny, playful, and very challenging for the three because the tempo is super-fast.” The last movement “starts out as a dark march” which, by the end, gives way to a “glorious, happy and triumphant mood.”

The tempo marking of the first movement is fast, energetic, with fire; that pretty much describes the tumultuous character that is juxtaposed with a more lyric melody. Wu supplied ample energy with arpeggios that ran the length of the keyboard. Fadial’s soaring violin was a delight, and Vanderborgh’s sumptuous sound was the foundation.

The beautiful second movement alternated between the sensitive playing of Wu and the equally radiant Fadial-Vanderborgh duets. The third movement was non-stop energy. All three seemed to effortlessly negotiate the flying fingers on all three instruments.

The finale, with a “passionate” tempo marking, perfectly described the musicians’ commitment and playing. A shift to the major key in the coda closes the piece in a heroic and stately manner.

The large audience was treated to an encore: Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla’s “Summer” from his Four Seasons. The Latin rhythms and melodies were a perfect contrasting conclusion to a rich evening of some of the best chamber music written in the European tradition.