in: Reviews

May 5, 2009

Moët Trio in Gardner Museum’s Young Artists Showcase

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Columbia-Julliard trained violinist Yuri Namkung names the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich, Orchestra of St.Luke’s, and Seattle Symphony as premiere performance organizations with which she has appeared. Julliard trained cellist Yves Dharamraj names the Florida Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony, Houston Symphony, and Green Bay Symphony. He also composes and performs in chamber ensembles.Pianist Michael Mizrahi, a Yale graduate, has appeared with the Houston Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, and Sioux City Symphony. He is a member of the NOW Ensemble in New York.

Together as the Moët Trio, the three have played concerts here as well as in New York and Washington. The trio currently studies with Donald and Vivian Weilerstein in the Professional Piano Trio Training Program at the New England Conservatory.

An educated guess says they have been playing together for two or so years. No one yet seems to know how the name of the trio came about. “Champagne of trios” has been offered but always with a smile. If anyone knows, kindly leave a blog in the spaces that are provided below this review.

Opening their May 3rd date with Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 5 in D major, Op. 70, No. 1, “Ghost,” Moët dug into a work that is both technically and musically demanding. Their exuberant playing, that could be seen as well as heard, brought about many happy moments in the first movement marked allegro vivace e con brio. Ensemble imbalances, however, were in evidence, perhaps a result of this being their first piece on the program.

During the slow second movement, the piano’s quietly quavering chords and mystifying notes outside the key demonstrated how Geistertrio became the popular name of one of the best-known trios in the repertoire. Moët’s eerie string playing enhanced its ghostliness. Overall, though, the instrumental playing of the three did not ultimately match up one to another.

Out of Yves Dharamraj’s cello came warmth that might be described as something akin to rich old wood. From violinist Yuri Namkung a somewhat steely sound predominated, soft notes taking on too much fuzz. Michael Mizrahi caught the ear especially with staccato notes turned into even-popping sounds, but some liquidity in the pianist’s rhythmic touches seemed in order. At times, the concluding presto movement went quite playfully and with considerably greater interaction. All three of Moët’s members conveyed graciousness to one another, one of the enjoyable things about watching them in action.

Instead of an intermission, the trio smartly chose to take shorter breaks between the three pieces on the program, thereby holding the audience’s attention (with those long intermissions, minds can tend to wander).

A one-movement trio lasting some seven minutes, Big Sky, by contemporary American composer Joan Tower, moved about in broad brush strokes. For certain, syntax was not in the mix; not as certain, the connection of title and composition. But here, the trio was right on target. Rather than focusing on the all too familiar language and expressive style of the music, they took another direction-exposing the work as a highly crafted entity.  Moët reproduced Big Sky as crystallinity.

Giving yet another shot at the challenging side of the trio world, the youthful Moët players did not fail to impress with their performance of Maurice Ravel’s Trio in A minor, a trio loaded with amazing displays ranging from the virtuosic to the colorful, its four movements lasting over twenty-five minutes.

Modéré was a bit timid. A very fiery Pantoum really got off the ground with hot staccatos and sizzling surges one after another. Some lulls and a plodding close were in stark contrast to the electrical climax the three achieved in the Passacaille. In the escalating Finale where plucking, quivering, melodic twisting, and harmonic flirting all converge, Moët’s obvious passion spilled over. With more time spent together, Moët could very well be on its way.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and Chairman of the Department at U. Mass Boston for the past 15 years, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award in Teaching and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. Also a composer, he lives in Watertown.

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