IN: Reviews

Another Concord Milestone

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In a strong and idiosyncratic traversal of Dvořák’s nostalgic Piano Trio in E Minor, Op. 90, “Dumky” the Hermitage Trio’s evocations of the composer’s well-remembered dumkas and schumkas (slow and fast Ukrainian dances) suitably and memorably capped the Concord Chamber Music Society’s decades-long residency at the capacious (if problematic due to treacherous steps and dryness) Concord Academy Theater. Sunday’s very satisfying concert, with a mostly Spanish (and also nostalgic) first half, summoned up memories of the many slow, fast, and wonderful concerts a grateful and loyal contingent has enjoyed there. Early next year, CCMS will be presenting at the glorious Groton Hill Taj. Thereafter, it’s anyone’s guess.

Misha Keylin, violin; Sergey Antonov, cello; and llya Kazantsev, piano began with Joaquin Turina’s (1882-1949) Piano Trio No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 76. Sometimes channeling Franck and Debussy, albeit with a Spanish accent, the work danced with many slow fast contrasts much as the Dvořák would in the second half. The opening Lento lasted only a few bars before gathering allegro steam. The players seemed relaxed and expansive, taking care that the equality of parts came across, though it has to be said that the Byronic cellist Antonov made the most majestic impression in the room. The dry space is less kind to the violin, though Keylin’s warm, handsomely throbbing tone never turned harsh…even at times when we wanted it to. The ancient-looking, duct-tape-repaired Steinway B appeared totally entirely new inside; in the hands of Kazantsev, it sounded elegant and refined with perfectly even tone. The Molto Vivace scampered and tremulated in the strings before the piano brought some mild chromatics in his dance card. The Finale began with majestic striving as the strings matched their vibratos and a big piano chord led into a fast fugal section. A mysterious Spanish interlude with insistent pizzes whipped up an enthusiastic coda. Stephen Ledbetter noted how “Turina’s Spanish rhythm and French coloration are fused throughout the trio in his utterly characteristic way.”

Rachmaninoff wrote his single movement Trio elegiaque No. 1 in G minor apparently as a student sketch for a later, more developed tribute to Tchaikovsky. In both elegies the composer gave the piano primacy, but songfulness and soulfulness infuse  the multiple facets of this constantly evolving version. Antonov again spun gold, and Keylin projected the violin’s romantic urgency. The very elegiac concluding Lento lugubre made pall bearers of us all.

The novelty on the concert came from the pen of Catalan violinist-composer Mariano Perelló (1886-1960). Ledbetter wrote that Tres impresiones, for piano trio

….is dedicated to [Perelló’s] two partners in the Trio Barcelona. Not surprisingly, it gives each of the three musicians a leading role at various times evokes three significant aspects of the Spanish music of his early years. The first movement, Thinking of Albeniz explicitly calls up the style of the composer who so shaped his early career. The second movement, Andalusian Caprice, suggests two dancers, a graceful sinuous woman being observed and echoed by a lithe man. The finale, Gypsy Scene, calls up the colorful, vivid life of gypsies in Granada.

Pensando en Atbeniz (Poco allegro) cavorted with Spanish flair, banishing all the funereal depression of the Rachmaninoff. The ensemble dug in with silver spurs, ginning up quite a fury of virtual olés and swirling banners. Toreadors earned laurels from senoritas. Capricho Andatuz (Allegro) began with a love song from the cello; the violin amplified the sentiments, and the full trio pulsed the melody with great melodic gifts. Escenas Gitanas (Allegro) A fast but elegant dance took a slow turn with the cello sounding vaguely Hebraic (as in Bloch’s Schelomo). Kazsentsev rhapsodized with fine control. Then another fast dance disambiguated into a nostalgic revery before re-launching its chivalrous colors. Suddenly, “That’s all, folks.”

We could have heard the Hermitage Trio play Dvořák’s trio twice more without tiring of the contrasting dances. Whether in the tumult of passion or in post-passionate repose, these players gave us grand manner Dvořák. We heard moments of ineffable poignance, lilting humor, hesitations, and delicacies redolent of early recordings—all with the freedom to surprise and win our hearts. Kazentsev gave a textbook treatise on varieties of touch between legato and staccato through expert pedaling and touch. The cello intoned with a diva’s vocal mastery. And the violinist presided with aristocratic poise. The ppp’s just ravished, and after the longest pause, the ovation earned an encore of the Brahms’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5…with more wonderful hesitations, taffy-pulling, and short-runway take-offs. And so, goodbye and thanks to the Concord Academy.

Lee Eiseman is the publisher of the Intelligencer

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  1. “We heard moments of ineffable poignance, lilting humor, hesitations, and delicacies redolent of early recordings—all with the freedom to surprise and win our hearts.” Amen.

    Comment by Bill Blake — November 23, 2023 at 11:25 am

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