in: Reviews

August 16, 2016

Solisti Indeed, Alas

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solisti

Trio Solisti (file photo)

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.

Leslie Gerber, who lives in Woodstock, New York, has been reviewing professionally since 1966, for such venues as Performance Today, Fanfare, and Amazon.com. He also publishes the Parnassus Records label.

4 Comments

  1. We heard this trio in Rockport earlier this summer. The reviewer here expresses well what we heard as well: a group of fine but mismatched players. Solisti indeed. Bidini has no deficit of prowess but is clearly a fish out of water in chamber music. He needs training and reining.

    Comment by rlhevinne — August 16, 2016 at 11:05 pm

  2. https://soundcloud.com/user-711375167/beethoven-trio-in-c-minor-op-1-no-3

    This live performance from April sounds duly matched-fish to my ear, although in Rockport they did demonstrate somewhat more discreteness.

    Comment by david moran — August 17, 2016 at 12:47 pm

  3. BMInt’s review of the trio’s performance at Rockport in June was quite positive:

    https://www.classical-scene.com/2016/06/08/solisti-rockport/

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — August 17, 2016 at 5:51 pm

  4. I can’t comment on matters of balance at TS’s Maverick concert, which I was unable to attend. On Rockport’s Steinway in June, though, Fabio Bidini achieved tremendous power and emotional force, especially in Brahms’ Op 8, without ever overwhelming his partners. I found their performance wonderfully transparent and lucid, in fact – quite remarkable considering how recently Bidini had joined the band.

    I have to say I’m puzzled by rlhevinne’s comment above – my impressions were more in accord with David Moran’s whizbang review – but not so puzzled by Mr. Gerber’s account. After all, both his adjustments and perhaps the pianist’s made for the kind of well-balanced performance that I thought we all heard in Rockport.

    Comment by nimitta — August 18, 2016 at 11:43 am

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