The superb ensemble playing of Trio Solisti on Sunday afternoon at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall as part of the 117th season of the Troy Chromatic Concerts was further invigorated by an unusual program of choice selections.
Instead of just playing trios, the group began with “Hungarian Rhapsody” for cello and piano by 19th century cellist extraordinaire David Popper, followed by Philip Glass’ Violin Sonata (2008) and only then Ernest Chausson’s Piano Trio (1881).
By the time Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor with guest violist Hsin-Yun Huang completed the program, the enthusiastic crowd had not only been enthralled with the exceptional readings from violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach and pianist Adam Neiman, they were given a charming visual garden to enjoy. The ladies all wore similar-style flowing gowns in complementary hues: Bachmann in orchid, Gerlach in lilac and Huang in scarlet. Somehow, that made the playing sound even better.
Gerlach, who played with her head back and her eyes closed in the Popper, made her lines an intense personal commentary. She played in a grand, eloquent style with a wide range of dynamics, a rich and robust tone, and nuances and dynamics that ebbed and flowed. Only a cellist with Gerlach’s imagination could have pulled it off and it was sensational. Neiman provided a stalwart support.
Glass wrote his sonata for Bachmann. She knew what to do with Glass’ signature repeated and undulating motifs, which he writes in blocks rather than in lines. Yet, he managed to mingle some melody within the three movements, which were all a bit different in mood. The first had his typically mysterious, haunting passages; the second had some soaring melodies that were searching and sad; the third was a burning fury that only increased in speed. Bachmann and Neiman used great pacing and a focused energy.
Chausson’s trio is a memorable work full of lush, dark, romantic harmonies, and interesting ideas that require an almost rhapsodic, ecstatic involvement from the players, who must have virtuosic technical abilities.
Trio Solisti were everything they needed to be: carefree, dreamy, dramatic, robust and note perfect. Balances were excellent, dynamic contrasts were sudden and in complete control, and the energy was so high it left the audience rapt and breathless.
In similar vein was the Brahms. Working with Huang, who fit right in, the quartet paid much attention to detail, pacing, blending, and arching the long phrases. The first movement’s dense darkness had some exceptional subtleties in the softer dynamic ranges. The second, with Brahms’ inspired treatment of the melody, had wonderful sway and lightness. The third was well sung even to the declamatory martial section; and the finale was a gypsy romp. All of it was great stuff.
The final concert of the season is April 16 with violinist Hilary Hahn.