Chamber Music Wilmington continued its recital series with the Horszowski Trio. Wilmington has come of age as a cultural center. This compact town is now regularly the site of superb and even world-class music making. The Horszowski continued this at Beckwith Recital Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, giving a performance which at their best would be described only in superlatives.
The first work on the program was the Trio in E-Flat, Op. 70 No.2 by Beethoven. The beginning of the first movement offered a beautiful subdued introduction with fine phrasing. The second movement had an appealing lilt, while the third had some lovely melodic playing. The final movement accumulated a good bit of momentum.
Nonetheless, this was the least successful work on the concert. The pianist, Rieko Aizawa, had a muscular tone which became percussive at times. Jess Mills, violin, and Raman Ramakrishnan, cello, always played beautifully, but with such smoothness that the rhythmic quality of the piece often didn’t come through. The very different tones of the strings and the piano didn’t sound well meshed.
All these reservations were swept away in the following work, titled simply Trio and written in 1921 by Rebecca Clarke. Clarke was a formidable composer whose music should be heard more often. With the very first notes, the listener was brought into a passionate modal world, the intensity of which never diminished over the 25-minute course of the piece. The surges and retreats of the first movement carried a large-scale arc. The big-boned nature of this work seemed to suit Aizawa perfectly, and she produced a huge, rich tone from the piano. The violin and cello took on full-blooded expressive intensity. Mills and Ramakrishnan seemed to be primarily lyrical personalities, combined however with consummate technique. They projected the passion of this music, and its atmospheric characters, with unbroken intensity.
The strings shone in the quietest of ways in the muted passages of the second movement. Especially beautiful moments here were the oscillating ppp in the strings under a delicate piano melody, etched perfectly by the superb acoustics of Beckwith. The ending was gripping. The third movement, with some dance-like character, returned to the dramatic give and take of the first movement and ended the piece brilliantly.
After intermission, the program concluded with the epic Trio in C minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was a virtuoso pianist, and the piece is written with that high level of demand in the keyboard part. In this performance, the first movement took a bit of time to develop its full dramatic weight; perhaps the very fast tempo played a role. But eventually powerful chords and big buildups drove the movement to a compelling ending.
The following three movements were of the highest artistic order throughout. The second movement, played with the richest expressivity, carried one unbroken line from start to finish. The lush tone of the middle section was especially fine. The third movement was played at a blistering tempo, with absolute rhythmic precision, and perfect lightness and articulation. The trio section, despite the speed, took on a more easygoing, lyrical character which contrasted ideally with the outer sections.
The fourth movement concluded the concert on a powerful dramatic arc. Aizawa commanded the formidable technical challenges with complete artistry. The strings mixed rich lyricism with the prevailing drama, soaring beautifully to the peaks of lines. The accumulative power of the return of the hymn theme and the coda were nothing short of massive. This is the kind of pure music making in which listeners experience the ideal of art and its ability to infuse our lives with something that moves us beyond ourselves. That was the privilege which came to the audience fortunate enough to be there to hear the Horszowski Trio.