in: Reviews

September 3, 2018

Maverick Season Ends in a Blaze of Glory

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Are Haydn and Dvořák the most neglected composers in classical music. Sure, every classical music lover knows their names and some of their work. But both composers have large produced many masterpieces which are almost completely neglected in our concert halls. Brahms’s initial support for Dvořák came about after he saw a group of the composer’s manuscripts including the first two Symphonies. I’ve never heard any Dvořák Symphony before No. 7 in live performance. And so on.

Trio Solisti closed out the 2018 Maverick Concerts season in Woodstock Sunday with works by both composers (and Chausson). The Haydn was not the “Gypsy Rondo” Trio. The Dvořák was not the “Dumky” Trio. This listener was in heaven.

In Haydn’s Trio No. 27, in C Major (admittedly one of the relatively familiar Haydn Trios), the balance decidedly favored Fabio Bidini’s piano. He sounded lovely, but Maria Bachmann’s violin and Alexis Pia Gerlach’s cello seemed to provide mostly accompaniment. Haydn didn’t write for the strings in his trios with the independence of Beethoven, but they aren’t merely accompaniment, either, and should have been more prominent, especially in the second movement. We also would have enjoyed hearing the exposition repeat in the first movement. Nevertheless, the reading had the charm, humor and style of Haydn aplenty.

Dvořák wrote four Trios, the “Dumky” and, oh yes, three other ones. Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt has talked trio ensembles performing at Maverick to play all four of them. This time we heard the Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major Op. 21. Maverick’s program annotator John F. Baker, who does an excellent job overall, wrote this time, “Like many early Dvořák works, the trio is a little overextended at more than half an hour, but never less than delightful.” I’d like to see him pick out any extraneous measures, because I don’t hear any.

There are different styles of development in classical forms. Beethoven’s developments, although they can be lengthy, are concise and concentrated. Schubert’s, by contrast, can seem discursive. But they’re not. Schubert used longer, more expansive themes, leading naturally to longer, more expansive developments. So did Dvořák, whose developments contrast with the more concise developments of Brahms. But Brahms loved Dvořák, and he loved Schubert so much he did anonymous editorial work on the first Schubert edition.

This Dvořák Trio is an unqualified masterpiece, full of gorgeous themes and expansive but meaningful development. It has not a single extraneous note. Trio Solisti gave us a performance in authentic-sounding romantic style, with great freedom of expression in general and rhythm in particular. The balance among instruments was close to ideal, and they sounded just gorgeous. I loved the combination of vigor and freedom in the third movement Scherzo, and the final “Allegro vivace” was indeed vivacious. This was one of my favorite performances of the season, and the crowd’s too, inasmuch as they produced a rare first-half standing O.

We certainly don’t hear Ernest Chausson’s Trio in G Minor, Op. 3, very often. An “early” work from this notoriously unprolific composer, he wrote it when he was 26. It has the characteristic Chausson slithery chromatics (not as irritating as Reger’s, but still irritating), some ideas apparently filched from Saint-Saëns, and some lovely moments separated by a lot of noodling.

Well, if we have to hear this piece, it should at least be played by musicians who believe in it as obviously as those of Trio Solisti. They kept the momentum going, and all three players produced truly lovely sound. I’ve complained about the sound of some of this season’s pianists, but not Bidini, whose tonal quality and range were exemplary. The capacity crowd showed their obviously delight.

Having been attending Maverick Concerts for well over four decades, under music directors: Leo Bernache, Vincent Wagner, and now Alexander Platt, I have found the quality of the series consistently high, to the extent that just crediting Platt with maintaining Maverick’s standards is serious praise. He’s done better than that, though. The introduction of his chamber orchestra concerts has been a major plus for the series, especially since they have been so well played. We may not get the Emerson Quarter any more (they did play at Maverick for years), but we’ve had a number of the celebrity ensembles on the chamber music scene, and they frequently comment that Maverick is their favorite place to play. Platt has also brought us some very stimulating performers who were new to the series. No concert this season failed to achieve a high standard. Thanks to the “Americans in Paris” project this summer we got to hear more recent music than usual, and if most of it was Ned Rorem’s, that became surprisingly OK.. The Maverick series makes Woodstock summers great.

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.

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