A Memorable Premiere and More from the Claremont Trio
The piece de resistance on the Claremont Trio’s program at this month’s Music Mondays on the Upper West was the New York premiere of a brand-new commission from Gabriela Lena Frank, a Peruvian-themed four-part suite simply titled Folk Songs for Piano Trio.Violinist Emily Bruskin, cellist Julia Bruskin and pianist Andrea Lam had debuted it in Boston only days before but were obviously reveling in its striking vividness and nimble blend of 12-tone and neoromantic harmonies. The opening movement centered around a dramatically echoing, off-center tolling bell motif played with a grinning vigor by Lam. The following movement, meant to depict children playing, relied heavily on the strings’ fluttering pizzicato, its brooding tonalities vastly more evocative of the Hunger Games. A portrait of street musicians followed, the Bruskins getting to enjoy utilizing guitar voicings and chords, building to a haunting modal vamp at the end. They concluded the piece with an evocation of ancient ruins that blended otherworldly austerity with towering majesty.
The rest of the program was fun, too, starting with the Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1 No. 1, which is typical early Beethoven – he sneaks up on you, and on those who play his music. After the catchy cuckoo clock motif that opens the final movement seems to have run its course of variations, the composer hits you (and the pianist) with a brutally difficult series of downward cascades. But Lam took them in stride and turned them into a single, comfortably rippling brook. Mendelssohn’s Trio in C minor, Op. 66, which closed the program, opened with a much longer series of rapidfire runs, and Lam handled them with the same seemingly effortless precision. The richly gorgeous, unleashed triumph of the opening movement never recurs to such an extent, but maybe that’s just as well. The sternness and then stately warmth and glimmer of the waltzing second movement, along with the genial nocturnal ambience constructed throughout the end of the work, sent everyone out onto the glistening streets outside to revel quietly in contemplation of what they’d just witnessed.
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