The three sisters who make up the Albers Trio showed Sunday afternoon at Union College’s Memorial Chapel what it’s like when it’s all in the family.
Violinist Laura, violist Rebecca and cellist Julie breathed together, used similar vibrato speeds, and finished their phrases with the same type of lift to their bows. They also were equally matched technically and had strong bow control as per their soft attacks and exquisite soft articulation work.
Sharp and sweet
The sisters produced a sweet, very refined sound that suited much of the music they played. Nuances were as delicate as lace and balances were always exact.
They began with Beethoven’s Trio in G Major, Op. 9, No. 1, which had very transparent writing, and interweaving and balanced parts. The trio was quite musical in the four movements, which the sisters paced nicely.
The third movement was especially appealing with its nice bounce and the fourth movement’s quick tempo set up lovely frothy sprays of notes, which the trio played with a light touch.
Rebecca told the large crowd that Bohuslav Martinu’s Trio a Cordes, which he wrote in Paris in 1934, had been unknown to them until about two years ago, when the sisters stumbled onto the piece while searching through the library at the Juilliard School looking for something to play. Rebecca said they fell in love with the piece.
In one sense it was easy to see why, because there are many technical challenges in the two movements. But the trio is not pretty. The first movement is agitated and melancholic with lines that are not always clear. The second movement had varied tempos from slow to quick, featured the viola in a solo cadenza and had a few melodies. Despite a tonality that did not center, each movement ended with a very tonal chord.
The sisters played the music with great energy and commitment. Obviously, they believe in the trio.
Piano makes four
In a more conventional tone, pianist Pei-Yao Wang joined the trio for Brahms’ surprisingly sunny Quartet in A Major, Op. 26. It’s a very meat-and-potatoes kind of piece, with integrated parts and a frequently two-handed unison piano part. The four movements had many serene moments that journeyed into drama before settling down.
But the group was almost too silken, too evenhanded in its style. A bit of abrasiveness or edge would have given more color and interest — much like adding a shot of electric blue to a monochrome painting.
Tempos, too, were sometimes too consistent. The slow second movement was almost soporific in its languor.