The Neave Trio (violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov, and pianist Eri Nakamura) can be counted on to present interesting and varied repertoire, but Friday’s concert at Longy particularly stood out.
Neave recently recorded and released Albert Roussel’s Op. 2 Trio in an apt paring with the Debussy Piano Trio. The Roussel is a work highly indebted to the older French master, from the gentle piano playing of the E-flat major wash with which it opens, to the occasional whole-tone flash, or the abrupt color shifts in the last movement. Neave charged it with rich piano sonorities and singing string solos. Willams’ and Veselov’s octave melodies blended beautifully. In the slow middle movement, they transmitted a feeling that the music was trying to break out of its deep melancholy, but could never muster the energy to do so. The quicksilver finale had a searching quality, as if the music were trying to find its way as it passed through a number of characters. All of the episodes were played with a light assuredness. When it finally gained a solid footing in E-flat major, it became stunning. The ending came with surreal and colorful shifts of harmonies. Nakamura’s delicate handling of Roussel’s dense piano writing deserved singular praise.
Since Shostakovich’s vocal music is something of a rarity, hearing his Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok with soprano Karyl Ryczek allowed for a real treat. The four musicians brought forth a soul-crushing interpretation of this very sparse and sometimes tragic cycle. The fifth song, “The Storm,” contained a propulsive energy, characteristic of his earlier music, but the remaining songs were deeply somber and bare. Throughout, each of the players balanced and complemented each other wonderfully. Veselov’s opening cello solo moved poetically understated beneath Ryczek’s darkly colored singing. The soprano and violin duet, “We Were Together,” started as a wistful recollection, but turned sour with rushes of violin activity. While the cheerful mood returned, the pain never really left. This is perhaps a fitting encapsulation of the work as a whole: things that were once light now have become dark. By the final two songs, the mood had turned to complete numbness. Ryczek’s unrelenting intensity proved haunting.
The 13-year-old Erich Korngold’s Trio in D Major provided a youthful contrast, though the composer larded it with far too many ideas that never got fleshed out; many times one sensed only the most vague direction. Still, Korngold managed several inspired moments. Bombastic ascending gestures filled the first movement. The opening of the scherzo had some fun juxtapositions of moods, and in the slow movement the piano played a chorale accompanied by playful plucked strings. The mercurial finale featured playing that ranged from Romantic sentiment to wild excitement. When Korngold gave Neave some good material, they really dug in, and even in the less worked-out passages, they played with expressive sensitivity.
As an encore Neave played the Spring movement of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons. From the opening drumming to the more reflective sections to the wild ending, they showed fire and liveliness.