Normally when reviewing a concert like that of I would start off by discussing interpretive details of the performance, but unfortunately I have to start out by saying that there was something seriously wrong with the playing at this concert, and it made the ensemble sound like soloists instead of an ensemble. During the first half of the program, balances were seriously off throughout. Pianist Fabio Bidini, a relatively new member of the ensemble, produced excellent sound quality from Maverick’s Yamaha, but he produced much too much of it. As a result, through Beethoven’s “Geister” Trio and Brahms’s Op. 101, the strings were difficult or impossible to hear, a serious enough deficiency to wreck the music.
I don’t automatically blame imbalances on the pianist in these situations. But the way Bidini charged into the opening of the Brahms, he definitely sounded as though he thought he was the soloist. And with the piano lid up, it was all too easy for him to dominate. From the opening measures of the Beethoven, it was obvious that the ensemble had its own distinct ideas about its interpretation. It began crazy-fast, with strong contrasts. The nuances in the slow movement–which had to compete with a thunderstorm–worked very well with the music, although even here balances were frequently off. The finale, marked “Presto,” was not too fast and when we could hear everyone it was very effective.
As I noted, the Brahms started off with too much piano, and the finale ended the same way. In between, there were times when this wonderful music worked excellently. Violinist Maria Bachmann and cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach are fine players, and what one could hear of their work was commendable. I’ve never understood why this last of Brahms’s Trios is so infrequently performed, since it’s up to his highest level.
After intermission, I moved to a different part of the hall out of curiosity, to hear if the balances were better. They were, but I suspect a lot of the difference was due to the lighter scoring of the piano part in Arensky’s Trio No. 1, in D Minor, Op. 32. There was a time when this piece was quite popular, and its place on this program was a tribute to the very first Maverick concert 100 years ago when it was also played (as was the Beethoven). Although I haven’t heard the piece in years, it easily passed my “Memory Test.” I recognized it immediately as music I’d heard before (mostly in my home, where it was a favorite of my mother, an adept pianist.) I’m not sure I could have identified it as Arensky, but it certainly holds the interest and the memory. I don’t know if this piece is part of Trio Solisti’s regular repertoire, but the players certainly had the measure of the music, including a particularly lovely and well-balanced reading of the third movement Elegia. I also greatly enjoyed Arensky’s finale, a rondo using material from earlier movements as episodes. So the concert ended with the most successful performance of the afternoon. Too bad the earlier works weren’t as successful.