Trio con Brio lives up to its name with dramatic Beethoven, Shostakovich

Thu Oct 18, 2018 at 9:50 am
By Edward Reichel

Trio con Brio performed Wednesday night at Libby Gardner Concert Hall, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City.

After several years’ absence, Trio con Brio returned to Libby Gardner Concert Hall Wednesday night in a concert presented by the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City. The program featured two masterworks by Beethoven and Shostakovich, yet the Copenhagen-based ensemble also brought music of one of Denmark’s most significant contemporary composers, Bent Sørensen.

Instead of sandwiching Sørensen’s piece between the two more familiar names, the group elected to open the concert with his Phantasmagoria, which Sørensen composed for them in 2007.

Phantasmagoria consists of five fairly short movements that bounce between mechanical energy and romantic lyricism. On top of that, Sørensen strews snippets of motives about and hints at melodies that are never fully developed. But even though the work is fragmented in style and each instrument is quite independent of the others, there is still a strong connection among the three through the composer’s imaginative use of imitative writing.

Phantasmagoria is certainly not an easy piece to pull off, but the three players gave a captivating account that was flawlessly executed and captured the subtle shifts in dynamics, expression and moods. They managed what seemed an impossible task by bringing insight and cohesion to what seemed an outwardly incoherent but oddly atmospheric work.

The familial group (violinist Soo-Jin Hong and cellist Soo-Kyung Hong are sisters and pianist Jens Elvekjaer is married to S00-Kyung) rounded out the first half with Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D major, titled the “Ghost.”

A product from the composer’s middle period,  Beethoven’s popular Op, 70, no. 1 is intense in its expression and mood swings, and the threesome certainly did its utmost to convey the contrasts in the music. Right from the stormy opening of the first movement they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the music. They gave a passionate reading that brought out the rhythmic vitality of the outer movements and the darkness of the middle movement.

Particularly noteworthy was the Largo assai movement where the players brought an earnest pathos to the music, offering a more somber take on this trio than one is accustomed to hearing.

The concert ended with Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 in E minor. This dark work is quite demanding for the players, and can be for audiences in its brooding, relentlessly bleak nature.

Trio con Brio’s rendering of this work emphasized the dogged rhythmic drive of the opening movement and the pained expression of the second movement. Both were given dynamic and dramatic treatment that fully captured the obsessiveness of the music.

The Largo is without question one of the composer’s darkest and most powerful statements. Over sustained chords in the piano, the violin and cello play short melodic phrases of infinite sadness. Both string players brought finely expressed emotion and delicately crafted lyricism to their playing.

The closing movement has a folksong-like character that is grotesquely distorted. The three musicians’ robust playing brought out the restless energy and potency of this music. They also transitioned seamlessly into the concluding Adagio section that reprises passages from the previous three movements.

The Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City’s next concert takes place 7:30 p.m. November 15 at Libby Gardner Concert Hall. It features the Modigliani Quartet with Fabio Bidini, piano. The program includes Mozart’s Quartet No. 19, “Dissonance,” and Brahms’ String Quartet in C minor and Piano Quintet in F minor.

One Response to “Trio con Brio lives up to its name with dramatic Beethoven, Shostakovich”

  1. Posted Oct 18, 2018 at 1:27 pm by Paul Griffin

    Hi Ed: Great to have you “Back-on-Board” as a critic. Thanks for a splendid review of Trio con Brio.
    Cheers, Paul Griffin

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