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Ellipsis … Well on Its Way


Ellipsis Trio (file photo)
Ellipsis Trio (file photo)

Yet another group has arisen on the scene: Ellipsis launched January of last year. Its pairing of Dvořák’s Dumky Piano Trio and Ravel’s Piano Trio at St. John’s church in J.P. on a summery Saturday afternoon was fresh, the choice of day and four o’clock start just as fresh. While the group’s experience in taking on these masterworks produced remarkable results at times, holding the line was another matter, especially the aim of re-creating a whole.

“Meditative songs” and “joyful dances,” in Dvořák’s own description, are what the Dumky is about. The first three of its six episodes are to be connected. Though Ellipsis ignored the first attaca subito, it did attach the second to the third episode. And putting aside that single error, Ellipsis immediately caught hold of Dvořák’s shifting moods, now brooding, now cheerful, filling St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain with Bohemian flair conveyed with estimable professionalism. But from then on, the three instrumentalists, all of whom hold advanced degrees from Boston University, too often departed from Dvořák’s dynamic markings, choosing rather to escalate. That brought about a certain sameness, countering the highly contrasting design of the Dumky. This being the first time Ellipsis has played the venue, could it have been that the players were unaware of how big even the tiniest sounds can become in the church’s resonating space?

Throughout the program violinist Amanda Wang, cellist Patrick Owen, and pianist Konstantinos Papadakis, showed considerable technique and plenty of polish. From the four technically demanding movements of Ravel’s Piano Trio they faceted gems. In the lively Pantoum, Ellipsis rose to the heights. In its hands, the movement was collectively, scrumptiously smashing. Papadakis and the 5’8″ Mason Hamlin Model A made a perfect pair in stating the Passacaille’s theme, although Owen’s emotive power was too much, the long and winding melody calling for stasis. Here and elsewhere, Wang coupled a cogent approach with feeling. Perhaps that balance could play more of a role in the trio’s search for the entire picture: central characters, contrasts, and climaxes.

Sounding with one voice belied the threesome’s recent inception as an ensemble, conveying camaraderie most impressive. If the threesome continues to grow, especially with an eye toward the gestalt, it would seem from this, my first encounter, that its future looks bright. Still, the bigger question looms: will the Ellipsis find a niche in the big world of musicmaking as well as a distinct voice? Exuding rare warmth and naturalness, all artistic pretense absent, the trio’s mission to “delight all” might be part of the answer. Here’s wishing Ellipsis every success.

David Patterson (, professor of music at UMass-Boston and former chair of the Performing Arts department, was recipient of both a Fulbright and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris, and holds a PhD from Harvard.

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