Ohio Players

Preucil, Kim, and Rowe Trio, presented by the Music Academy of the West. At Lotte Lehmann Hall, Tuesday, November 28.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Trio-02.jpgLast Tuesday night at the Music Academy of the West’s Lotte Lehmann Hall, a “what’s wrong with this picture” feeling quickly segued into a satisfying “what’s right with this picture” sensation. After decades of expecting and experiencing the Music Academy of the West’s musical splendor in its usual summertime slot, a new wrinkle has appeared with the inaugural Advanced Strings Workshop. One happy, if initially disarming, result was the scheduling of an engaging “off season” chamber music recital on a late autumnal evening. On this night, two fine string players from Ohio showed why their state is embarrassed by its serious music riches. Cellist Eric Kim, principal cellist of the Cincinnati Symphony, and violinist William Preucil, concertmaster of the famed Cleveland Orchestra, were joined by Canadian pianist Arthur Rowe, a longtime collaborator with Preucil.

The program appeared fairly stodgy; a meat-and-potatoes stew of Brahms, early Richard Strauss, and Mendelssohn, but the playing was inspired and precision-geared, epitomizing the excitement and challenge of the chamber music ethos, from players with the wisdom, interactive antennae, and attention to detail to make any score sing.

And sing they did. Their command of the music and collective rapport was immediately apparent from the first undulant gusts of Brahms’s Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 2, Opus 99. Cellist Kim unveiled his sweet, substantial tone and full-service grasp of the music’s emotional landscape, from the adagio’s oscillating melancholy and high hopes to serial moments of apt romantic bravado.

Strauss, the composer who so effectively straddled the 19th and 20th centuries, sticks to his Brahms-ian, 19th-century manners in his Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat, Opus 18. The going gets tough, technically, and violinist Preucil and Rowe acquitted themselves beautifully, tapping into the relatively free-flowing spirit of the “Improvisation” movement, and working up the controlled fever pitch of the finale. A fleeting, dramatic pregnant pause triggered a laugh from the crowd, before they flung themselves into the sprint to the end.

Leaping back further into the 19th century, all three musicians offered a strong feeling of accord for Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Opus 49, which was the concert’s clear highlight. Strings stated graceful melodies over fast, rippling piano arpeggios in the brisker movements, while the slow andante attained rhapsodic grace, and offered pianist Rowe a ripe showcase. More, please. n

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