Muter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio at the Granada
David Bazemore

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.”


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