Pianist Hugh Tinney joined Camerata Pacifica members Catherine Leonard and Ani Aznavoorian for this concert, which included works by Beethoven, Brahms, and Alexander Zemlinsky. Aznavoorian and Tinney opened the evening with Zemlinsky’s Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 3. The work is an early one from the composer, and does little more than hint at what is to come from this student of Anton Bruckner and admirer of Arnold Schonberg. Yet within its more traditional scope, there is plenty of room for interesting harmonic complications and delightful interplay between the voices. The second and third sections were particularly stimulating, as emulations of Schumann’s lieder gave way to the rapture and excitement of an exquisite tarantella. There’s a renewal of interest in Zemlinsky among musicians right now, and it was easy to hear why with such an apt and expressive pairing as these two players.
Following the opener, which lasted a relatively brief eight minutes or so, Catherine Leonard appeared, resplendent in black and white, complementing Aznavoorian’s more colorful ensemble. Leonard and Tinney have a long standing collaboration on the Beethoven violin sonatas, and their approach to the No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 was at once restrained and lyrical, allowing the composition to be heard on its own terms, rather than through the muffler of an overwrought interpretation. The result was tantalizing, if not on a par with the absolute best of his Highness’s sonata writing. The piece dates from the middle, “heroic” period, and is at its best when hearkening back to the tenderness of Beethoven’s earlier efforts. Tinney managed to make things work on several levels, and Leonard was her usual self—passionate, intelligent, and supremely musical. It’s a treat to hear this kind of music played at such a rare level of sympathetic understanding.
After the intermission it was time for the main course: nearly forty minutes of ecstatic craftsmanship in the form of the Trio No. 1 in B Major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 8 of Johannes Brahms. All of the qualities one listens for in the chamber music of this composer were there in spades—the gorgeous lyricism, the sophisticated harmonies, and the delicate modulations between major and minor keys. It was a tour de force for three players of this caliber, and they made it entirely their own. Adrian Spence is to be congratulated for continuing to bring the absolute finest players over from Europe, and for remaining true to his Irish roots in this, the season of St. Patrick.