Music review: Familiarity shines as KSS Trio opens festival

The Saratoga Chamber Music Festival opened Tuesday night with the acclaimed KSS Trio of violinist An

The Saratoga Chamber Music Festival opened Tuesday night with the acclaimed KSS Trio of violinist Ani Kavafian, pianist Andre-Michel Schub and clarinetist David Shifrin.

It was also the introduction to the small crowd of Schub, who is the festival’s new artistic director.

Schub told the crowd how pleased he was to be here and especially to be sharing the experience with such longtime friends as Kavafian and Shifrin.

That familiarity showed from the opening bars of Mozart’s genial Trio in E-flat (“Kagelstatt”) of 1786. The trio’s refined, mellow sound, their silken tones, the players’ integrity and the wonderful musical exchanges were perfect.

Kavafian, who played viola on this piece, really got into her part. Schub’s touch and smooth technical passages were like strings of pearls, they were so evenly matched. Shifrin played with barely there attacks and finely spun-out tones

The trio’s versatility, which was evident throughout the evening, got a full contrast in Bartok’s “Contrasts” for which Kavafian played violin. Originally commissioned by Benny Goodman and violinist Joseph Szigeti, it posed several challenges for the ensemble. But Shifrin gave his part a robust, sometimes raucous sound that matched the iconoclastic score.

The third movement was supposed to be heavily gypsy-ish, but it seemed more like a devil’s wild ride. Taunting, fast, hard-edged and with lots of color that contrasted a bit with a plaintive melody from the violin, it raced to the end.

It was a terrific performance, and the crowd loved it.

A suite from Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” was taut, hard-edged, had strong rhythms and dry articulations and was played with great flair. The ensemble’s agility in creating yet again another kind of sound was impressive. Stravinsky’s grasp of the ragtime and jazz were impressive, all the more so when the audience learned he’d never heard this style of music before; he’d only seen scores.

The trio didn’t stop with choosing another style. The final work was William Bolcom’s marvelous “Afternoon Cake Walk-Rag Suite of Joplin, Lamb, Scott and Bolcom.” The trio captured the flavor of another era with great pizzazz. The tunes themselves were melody, toe-tapping, quaint, catchy and wonderful.

The next festival concert is Sunday afternoon with Sarah Chang.

Categories: Entertainment

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