Chamber Music Review



Gypsy Dance Rhythms Dominated Merling Trio Concert at Carol Woods


Event  Information

Chapel Hill -- ( Wed., Feb. 22, 2017 )

Carol Woods Retirement Center: Merling Trio
Free. -- Auditorium, Carol Woods Retirement Community , 919-968-4511 , https://www.carolwoods.org/ -- 7:30 PM

February 22, 2017 - Chapel Hill, NC:


Music lovers are always welcome to attend concerts at Carol Woods Retirement Community. Concerts are held in their delightful meeting hall and are scheduled most Wednesday nights during Fall and Spring seasons. The venue and acoustics are ideal for solo recitals and chamber music. The Merling Trio ended their tour of the state with a concert at Carol Woods on Wednesday evening. The Trio consists of violinist Renata Artman Knific, cellist Bruce Uchimura, and pianist Susan Wiersma Uchimura.

The Merling Trio is in its 29th season and has never had a change of personnel. When formed, the violinist Knific had an instrument made by Danish luthier Paul Merling – hence their name.

The main work on the program was the famous Piano Trio in G, Hob. XV/35, also called the "Gypsy" by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The first movement is a splendid set of four variations on the theme. The dreamy slow movement is in the distant key of E until a hint of the minor mode prepares for the G of the concluding "Rondo in the Gypsies style." Balance between the Yamaha, with its lid fully raised, and the strings was excellent. Both string players played with precise intonation and fine sense of classical style. The ensemble fully met the challenge of the fast-paced finale with the pianist's right hand supporting the violin while the left supported the cello.

The Haydn trio was sandwiched between two pairs of Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms (1833-97) arranged by Hermann. No. 15 in B-flat served as a warmup and was followed by No. 17 in F-sharp minor. The distribution between the three instruments was constantly fascinating.

Following the Haydn came Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 6 in D-flat, with its speeding up and slowing down. Next came the most famous No. 5 in F-sharp minor. It is based upon a csárdás by Béla Kéler that Brahms mistook for a folksong, and it gave Knific ample opportunity to really dig into her strings. The ensemble played these pieces to the hilt!

Schubert's Notturno in E-flat, D. 897 was dropped from the printed program and replaced by a real rarity, the lullaby-like "Berceuse," from the opera Jocelyn by Benjamin Godard (1849-95). A crystalline piano introduction led to Knific's seamless spinning of the plaintive melody above Uchimura's baseline.

The next two selections had a familial tie in: the violinist's son Gene Knific has arranged a dozen classic American popular songs ranging from Gershwin through Bacharach. "Jitterbug Waltz" (1942) by "Fats" Waller has a tantalizing redistribution of the score between the three players. For Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" (1939), the violin took the bridge part, ("Someday I'll wish upon a star") while the cello sang the main melody. This whetted the appetite for the Merling's upcoming compact disc to be issued this Fall.

The concert was brought to a vigorous end with Primavera Porteno by Astor Piazzolla (1921- 92) whose music is dominated by the tango, a dance of seduction originating in Argentine bordellos. Many involved the use of the accordion-like bandoneon. This piece was arranged by cellist José Bragato and the work has been taken up by many piano trios. The title refers both to "spring" as well as "port people" or native Buenos Aires dandies. Violin and cello take a crisp rhythmic theme evoking dance partners locked in embrace and narrowly avoiding stepping on each other's toes. The Merling's throbbing rhythms brought the audience to its feet.