Three chairs awaited on stage for the evening’s master musicians as audience members entered the Granada Theatre surrounded by crimson and gold decadence. The following is a review of the evening’s program written in playbill style.
The cast of characters:
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Lynn Harrell, cello
Beethoven: Piano Trio in B-flat Major, op. 97 (“Archduke”)
I: Allegro moderato
I don’t know if Archduke Rudolph of Austria (1788-1831) was a Californian wine fan, but Beethoven crafted this movement for him as if he were. Like a bold Chardonnay with light citrus overtones, this movement evoked a jolly melodic Summerland soiree with light conversation.
As the occasional pianist trills were like jelly fish frolicking on top of string pizzicato, the cellist’s vibrato went down warmly like a cup of spiked hot coco. Then the repeat came back with a canonic chit-chat building up to the triumphant ending that was classy, to-the-point, and pleasingly vibrant.
II: Scherzo (Allegro)
It was a waltz between high society and feverish severity, riddled with razor sharp 16th notes that were precise and meaty. It conjured a majestic forest with dynamic, haunting, tight phrases.
III: Andante cantabile ma peró con moto. Poco piú adagio.
The third movement piano introduction sang like a beautiful young dove leaving the nest. A galloping 8th note phrase emerged as the piano notes flew away.
IV: Allegro moderato
The one-y-and-a, two-y-and-a, three-y-and-a motif was played impeccably strong and sharp by the strings. The pianist has a trill that lasts longer then the Great Wall of China. I got lost in the action.
Bringing the piece to a close, the pianist spotted his peers, took a bull-fighting snort, and then the trio hammered it home to a ruckus applause.
Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A Minor, op. 50 “In Memory of a Great Artist”
I: Pezzo elegiac
The beginning theme instantly transported me to a black-and-white tragedy; a foreign film with melodic droplets of piano and a breeze of melancholy strings.
After a Russian moonlight filled the air with a four quarter-note phrase, it was off to the races. It was a melodramatic seesaw with no exit sign that finally slowed down to a nice moonlight-kissing scene at the park. The violin purred. The cello teased.
Then there was a chewy, chocolate-chip, oozy vibrato in the strings. The piano awoke with a Zeus-like thunderbolt forte.
II: Tema con variazoni: Andante con moto
It was like stroll on the harbor and butterscotch!! The theme in the piano transformed into a golden retriever playing catch with glissandos. Then the regal strings joined in unison.
The violinist displayed an ascending ballet mordant trill that spun-spot-spun-spot-rondo, plied and then did the splits in the air. Amazing control and power.
The middle section was interrupted by a mysterious up-and-down lurking piano arpeggio. This was my favorite part of the piece. A piano solo then echoed the beginning theme of the movement. The violinist sang again with her sexy vibrato.
The developed beginning theme finally came to a bold recapitulation of lamenting thoughts–the cellist and violin expressing their grief on a bed of flowers laid by the pianist. This of course was a portrait of a joyous and bittersweet life of Tchaikovsky’s good friend and pianist Nicholas Rubinstein.
It was a beautiful ending warmed with hugs and a standing ovation. After a fourth bow and a bouquet of red roses came what seemed to be an encore in the mist. After a comedic banter between the pianist and cellist fanning praises with rose pedal leaves, the trio proceeded to play again.
Encore: Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2, II Andante non troppo
A tantrum of a scherzo. It was beautiful yet had an uneasy chromatic tension to it.
According to the cellist, “the abrupt string crescendos represented the vomiting of the soldiers right before the battle in WWI.”