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Montrose Trio sparkles

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival has for years presented the very best chamber music performances. Wednesday night’s first Albuquerque concert of the season exemplified that tradition. The Montrose Trio gave a sparkling program of trios by Turina, Beethoven and Brahms.

It would be difficult, even impossible to find fault with the play of this marvelous Trio of veteran musicians. Martin Beaver, violin, and Clive Greensmith, cello, were both members of the former Tokyo String Quartet. New Mexico audiences have long appreciated the artistry of Jon Kimura Parker, most often as a piano soloist. While all are soloists in their own right, they play as a unit melding seamlessly with an impeccable sense of ensemble, giving vibrant performances that let each work reveal itself in all it has to say.

Joaquin Turina’s second Piano Trio provided a distinct sense of cultural expression from the two German works. The Trio No. 2 is a blending of Spanish and international musical elements. Completed in 1933, the piece maintains a good deal of thematic unity among its three movements. The lush harmonies create an element of “sevillanismo” arising from the characteristics of his native Seville, Spain, though Turina only rarely quotes folk melodies. The final movement featured full-blown fortissimo sonority yet still preserving the exotic spirit.

Beethoven’s first published work, Op. 1 No. 1 — a milestone in music history. In his mid-20s the composer intended to make an unmistakable impression on the contemporary music scene. The trio was a popular form at the time, and an obvious choice for a first publication. This in E-flat, like all three trios in the opus, went through extensive revisions. The work bears the influence of Mozart but with Beethoven’s breadth of scale and a dazzling array of technical devices.

The boldness of the Allegro exposition became slightly more lyrical in the repeat, and the extensive coda brimmed with vivacity. A beautiful Adagio cantabile, leisurely and lyrical, preceded the Scherzo, no elegant minuet, but a true scherzo (joke) full of tonal ambiguity and mercurial playfulness. For those knowing what to expect (or what not to expect) the work is full of comical devices not found again until the music of Prokofiev. The Trio demonstrated a spry wit full of eager impatience. The initial leaping figure of the Finale was transformed into clever variations. Here was a performance more full of brilliance and vigor than most recorded versions of the work.

After the break the Montrose Trio tackled Brahms’ first Piano Trio in B major, written in 1854, but revised many years later in 1890. The result is testimony to a youthful Brahms’ passion, albeit filtered through his later experienced ears. The Trio achieved a masterful balance between budding ardor and mature wisdom. Brahms, as the Romantics generally, was continually trying to put the mysterious symbols of nature into his music.

The series continues through August 24th in Santa Fe, and July 29, Aug. 5 and Aug. 12 at Simms Auditorium at Albuquerque Academy.

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