Tonight the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio presented an excellent concert at Peoples’ Symphony Concerts in the recently refurbished auditorium of Washington Irving High School, Irving Place, New York.
Joseph Kalichstein, Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson have been playing together as a trio in addition to their solo careers for many seasons, and they are among the finest of chamber ensembles. They play with great unanimity of spirit and deep affection for the music, which communicates itself to the audience effectively. That said, I could wish that their program on this occasion had not been quite so conservative. This concert could have been given in 1889! That is the year in which the most recent composition was published. I would have hoped for more variety than Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Dvorak, especially given the many contemporary works that this group has premiered. But what we were given was played with exemplary feeling.
They began with Beethoven’s rearrangement of his Op. 11 trio, originally intended for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, but here substituting the violin for the clarinet and making some compensatory re-arrangements. I have to say that I prefer the original version, which provides a greater contrast between the instrumental lines, but this performance could almost convert me to the arrangement, as Laredo’s expressive playing was so persuasive.
Mendelssohn’s C Minor trio, Op. 66, is the less popular of his two works in this form, and one can hear why right away. The melodies are just that less enticing than in the D Minor work, especially in the slow movement, and the elfin scherzo is just that bit less elfin and bit awkward. The “big tune” in the last movement is just that slightly less memorable. Heard on its own, it is a splendid work, and was splendidly played tonight.
For the final work on the program, the trio was joined by Nokuthula Ngwenyama, a fine violist and a refreshing interjection of youthfulness into this very senior aggregation. (Not that this venerable trio is any less than energetic, of course!) Dvorak’s Piano Quartet in Eb, Op. 87, is, like the Mendelssohn, a less popular entry in Dvorak’s chamber catalogue of music for piano and strings, the Quintet, Op. 81, being more frequently played. And again, as in the Mendelssohn, it is easy to hear way. Not only is everything slightly less ear-catching than in the more popular work, but I felt at times that this piece was distinctly inferior in melodic invention, a bit colder, a bit less “organic” in its feeling, a bit halting at times. I don’t think this had to do with the performance, but rather the performance exposed some shortcomings in the music. I love Dvorak as well as the next person, but he didn’t always hit the target, and I think this piece is a near miss. Nonetheless, it was worth hearing in this energetic performance, and one must not make the excellent the enemy of the good.
The next program that PSC is presenting at Washington Irving is the East Coast Chamber Orchestra on February 8. This is a Philadelphia-based group of excellent young string players, and they are presenting a wonderfully varied program ranging broadly from the renaissance to modern times, so it should be really entertaining. If any single tickets are left, it would be worth g