The Florestan Trio’s perfect communication was in ample evidence Saturday night at Union College’s Memorial Chapel as part of the 36th International Festival of Chamber Music.
Pianist Susan Tomes, violinist Anthony Marwood and cellist Richard Lester play with such an exquisite sense of musical empathy that everything they do is satisfying. The balances were perfect, and their tones were pure. Their techniques were crystalline, and every elegant phrase was finished. Even their attacks were subtle.
They began with Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Trio in D Major.” It is one of three piano trios Haydn finished in 1795 before he left London and which he dedicated to a close friend, Mrs. Rebecca Schroeter, who was a skilled fortepianist and music copyist.
The work is purely classical in form and texture. The Florestan were precise and allowed the work’s occasional dramatics to shine through. Marwood knew when to sweeten his sound with a bit of vibrato and Lester provided the perfect foil.
Tomes had the bulk of the technical difficulties, which she played with light, fleet fingers.
The first movement was sweet and the slower second was given a strong but controlled tempo. This led directly into the final quick movement, which the Florestan did with great smoothness. A minor excursion midway through provided pretty harmonic diversions. The piece ended delicately.
For sheer contrast, the Florestan chose Charles Ives’ “Trio” (1911). Tomes told the crowd that Ives had probably been inspired by his father’s experiments in melody and rhythm and, since Ives had a career in insurance, he didn’t have to worry about pleasing the powers that be.
The piece reflected some of Ives’ techniques: melodic collage, a stream of conscious rendering of tunes and merging tonalities and rhythms.
You need a taste for Ives, but this piece was surprising.
The first movement was a melange of abstract melodies that the Florestan played with great passion.
The second, which Ives himself called a joke, included a medley of pop tunes of the era in between difficult and often frenzied parts that went hither and yon before the movement ended in a kind of twilight.
The final movement was lush, melodically beautiful with hints of Chopin. Although there was some carnival, it ended with a brief “Rock of Ages” before drifting away.
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