The University of Vermont's Lane Series presented the Lincoln Piano Trio (Marta Aznavoorian, piano; David Cunliffe, cello; Desiree Ruhstrat, violin) on Friday night, February 20. The composer Pierre Jalbert, who grew up and was educated in the Burlington area, was also present to discuss and to listen to a performance of his work, Piano Trio (1998), and to greet old friends.
The trio, which was formed as an ad hoc group in Chicago, but they were so praised for their work that they decided to stay together. They did not even name themselves: someone else gave them the name of Lincoln. No matter what the circumstances were when they originally joined forces, they are an incredible group of musicians as they're playing demonstrated so clearly.
Jalbert's work was first on the program, and in addition to being a skillfully crafted and emotionally satisfying work, it permitted the trio the chance to demonstrate all of their technical skills and their interpretive arts. The first movement, Life Cycle, and contains a great deal of spikiness and angularity in the motifs that are woven together to form the four sections of the piece. Emotionally it appears to be in turmoil. Despite the fact that the same pulse obtains throughout the work, the structures of the four sections are different each from the other. The second movement, Agnus Dei, is more peaceful and transcendent. The first statement of the thrice-spoken text in the Latin mass is laid out simply. The repeat of this statement, which constitutes the second iteration of the text, is separated only by being in a higher key. The third of the three iterations of the text departs from the original statements, as it does in many settings of the Latin Mass, and it is much lengthier in its call for peace.
As with other compositions by Jalbert, the craftsmanship is beyond doubt, and the emotional content is equally clear. This certainly was, as the program notes suggested, a case where the local boy, having made good, returns home and triumphs. As a calling card for the trio, it presented them with a multiplicity of events to reveal their technical and interpretive abilities.
The second piece, Johannes Brahms's Piano Trio in C. Major, Op. 87, they showed a greater luxuriance of sound throughout, although it never reached a point of overdoneness. Never for a moment was it unBrahmansean, and the musical dialogue was of a first-rate character.
After intermission the crew performed Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in c minor No. 2, op. 66. I confess that I was ignorant of this superb piece of music, and the performance by the Lincoln Piano Trio was the perfect introduction to it. Just as they had captured the essential musical mood of their other works, they brought all their technical and interpretive skills to this marvelous music, giving us a perfect reading of musical coherence: not even one bar sounded like any composer other than Mendelssohn. The lightness of the scherzo movement, the energy expended on the first movement, the legato playing of the second movement, everything conspired to make it a wondrous interpretation.
It was a splendid evening of chamber music.
Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for The Eagle. His column appears weekly.