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Neave at Longy with a Valentine


The Neave Trio, Alumni Artists/Faculty Ensemble‑in‑Residence at Longy School of Music of Bard College played Pickmann Hall on Valentine’s Day. Longy’s invitation: “Forgo the Russell Stover mixed chocolates this year and treat yourself instead to an intimate V-Day.” A still young Neave polished off trios of Beach, Heffter, Rachmaninoff, and Piazzolla. The Russian’s Trio élégiaque figured in as a lament for a lost loved one as “From Deep Space with Oxygen for Love” flirted.

An upbeat rearrangement of Pickmann Hall had the Steinway on the floor, the trio snug inside the U-shaped seating. Being up close to the performers an obvious plus. Amy Beach’s Piano Trio, Op. 150 opened with l’amour in the air as Neave spun elegant charm at once appealing and strange for the American’s mature writing. Eri Nakamura’s hammerless pianism secured immediacy. The violin of Anna Marie Williams and cello of Mikhail Veselov called and answered with keen intimacy. Neave perked up a bit for the quick and nimble middle section of the Lento espressivo. Harshness surprised in the concluding Allegro con brio.

For the Heffter, it appeared that Neave managed to show the projections it had prepared for the stage’s screen. A selection of literary quotes for each piece on the program meant to enhance or guide listening. Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas: “There are such wide abysses now space and land between us. But we love each other.” The program furnished no explanation of Lisa Ralia Heffter’s title From Deep Space with Oxygen for Love. Observable instrumental playmaking occurred throughout its Boston premiere. Spaces as in silence, angriness or frustration as in pounded octaves, and unrequited love as in recurring cadences stagnated in old-fashioned elocution. Remaining in the balcony, the composer could be seen by some of the applauding audience that filled the truncated area.

Neave’s Valentine continued without intermission.

Neave Trio (file photo)

“…never doubt the faithfullest heart of your beloved.” These and other words of farewell from Beethoven preceded Sergey Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor. Lightness, or a kind of distancing, an almost ghostliness, prevailed. Air aside, artistic consciousness in melodic contouring outplayed expressiveness. Lines often caught up in the specifics did impress if listening more microscopically. Overall, a rhythmic stiffness accompanied Neave’s perspective on Rachmaninoff.

“I wish I could tell you of my love for you, of my fear, my delight…I can only ‘boil and bubble’ inside.” –Eliazbeth Taylor to Richard Burton. Neave Trio sustained its personality in Astor Piazzolla’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires). A new creation from the Argentinian, the tango fused with jazz and classical, found Neave wending along its own path. To excerpt a dictionary entry, “At its most elemental, Tango is a walking embrace. It is a corporeal dialogue that is intimate and sensual, danced to nostalgic music.” These qualities virtually escaped Neave Trio. Confidential playing alternated with outright raucousness. Percussive tapping on their instruments provided some relief.

Perhaps Neave’s goal was that of pursuing the movement of globalization, of integration. One might ask is there, nowadays, a Beech, Rachmaninoff, or Piazzolla feel?

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.  He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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