Pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo, and cellist Sharon Robinson have been making music together for more than 35 years, and in that time they have risen to occupy a unique place among the world’s trios. With dozens of premieres commissioned specifically for them by many of the greatest living composers, they could easily rest their reputation solely on giving brilliant, full-bodied voice to modern sounds. But that would be taking the emphasis off what is perhaps their strongest suit: their extraordinarily sensitive collective mastery of the classic repertoire for trio. The enthusiastic audience at their Saturday, January 11 recital at the Lobero got the best of the best — a program of Romantic masterpieces, each more ravishing than the last. In trios by Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johannes Brahms, the group consistently took the musical high road, avoiding meaningless showmanship in favor of realizing the composer’s intention. Schubert’s Adagio in E-flat Major, D. 897 “Notturno” made a perfect opener, short but dramatic enough to indicate the fireworks to come.
The Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66 of Mendelssohn is the kind of ambitious, extravagantly lyrical composition that activates the KLR Trio’s deepest resources, and the swirling resolution of its Finale: Allegro appassionato set the crowd abuzz with excitement for the second half.
The group’s version of Brahms’ Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello in B Major, Op. 8 had a lot to live up to. After another performance by KLR of this piece at the Kennedy Center in April of 2013, the critic for the Washington Post gushed that, “if you missed this performance, you should regret it bitterly for the rest of your life.” While I will not require bitter regret of any and all who were not at the Lobero on Saturday, I will say that this was certainly one of the most memorable chamber music experiences I’ve had anywhere, and that cellist Sharon Robinson in particular seemed to reach places of great mysterious beauty over and over throughout the course of this work’s gripping 35-minute length. Obviously feeling good after that titanic effort, the group returned for two short encores: a restrained but still swinging arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and a lively, idiosyncratic march by Fritz Kreisler.