The Claremont Trio / 5-3-14

This concert was supposed to have happened back in February, but had to be postponed due to heavy snow in New York. It was certainly worth the wait, although one of those things that tends to happen around here happened: the programs printed up for February were supposed to have been saved for today, but somewhere along the line there was a miscommunication and they all got recycled. We are very good at that kind of thing here. (Fuckups, not recycling.)

So the musicians themselves introduced the selections. The first was a recent composition, “A serious man,” by Judd Greenstein. This was a single movement piece in that modern/romantic style that definitely sounds as if it was written in the later twentieth or twenty-first century, but it’s not doing anything in terms of form or sound or approach that is going to terrify anyone. What I noticed most about this was the polish and precision of execution: you can tell when an ensemble has really thought a piece through and through and figured out what they want to do with it. And as with the other two works on the program, there was no shortage of feeling – the trio threw themselves wholeheartedly into every bit of it.

Shostakovich’s string trio no. 2 in E minor. The harmonics at the beginning did not come off perfectly, but this is a nitpicky criticism. The strength of this was in the intensity with which it was performed and the lively communication between all three players – you could see it and more importantly you could hear it. In the last movement, for example, there is a section of pizzicato that is tossed back and forth between the cello and the violin, and this sounded as if it were being done by a single instrument. The final movement as a whole was alternately wild and creepy.

I was expecting something more familiar for the last selection – maybe Beethoven or something like that – and I was close to right. They played Schubert’s Trio no. 2 in E flat, which is one of my favorite piano trios. I had never heard it performed live before, so bonus in several different ways. During the first movement, I was still convinced that the Shostakovich had been the high point of the program, but I was wavering by the second. The way the three instruments (particularly the cello and piano) pass the theme, and later bits of the theme, back and forth was really beautifully done. I continued to be absorbed during the third movement, and the fourth had something of the same fierceness as the Shostakovich. The ensemble played one encore, a short tango piece the title and composer of which I didn’t catch.