July 14--For a number of us who, ahead of time, might have studied the printed program for Thursday night's concert by the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio, a question arose about that piece of music placed in the middle.
There was a Beethoven trio to open, a good deal. There was a Dvorak trio to close, something to look forward to. But what about that selection in between, "Triptych: The Mirror with Three Faces?" The title sounded strange. The date of the composition, the program told me, was 2011; another source indicates 2012. So, this "Triptych" was something absolutely contemporary. But what about the composer, Lera Auerbach?
I looked her up. She's 39, Russian born, Juilliard School trained by Milton Babbitt (in composition) and Joseph Kalichstein (on piano). She's written a couple of symphonies, a full-length opera, an a cappella opera, some ballet scores and chamber music. She performs as well as composes. She's also a visual artist and a poet. Impressive.
Mark Kaplan, the violinist in the performing trio, had told me that Auerbach's "Triptych" has "a Russian flavor, touches of Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke" and "a lyrical voice that's quite wonderful."
Well, yes, to Mark Kaplan's description, including the word "wonderful." On hearing, "Triptych" turned out to be quite wonderful, a composition of today that's nothing less than exciting, mysterious, eloquent, with music that left this listener telling himself, "I want to hear this again." And hear it again I will, having at intermission run out to the lobby of Auer Hall to purchase a copy of the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio's CD, "An American Tour," which contains the piece. Please note also that the trio co-commissioned "Triptych" and has made the work part of its repertoire.
The full title, "Triptych: The Mirror with Three Faces," refers both to a three-part mirror, such as found in clothing stores, and paintings done on three connected surfaces. Such paintings tell a story. Auerbach's score seems to tell a story, in theater format, with the three instruments in extended and highly dramatic dialogue. What they're talking about, I know not, but perhaps it is whatever the listener conjures. The "what" -- as enunciated by pianist Yael Weiss, violinist Kaplan and cellist Clancy Newman -- was fascinating to experience, sometimes touched with a Russian flavor, sometimes influenced by Bach, but always marked by the voice of a gifted, imagination-driven composer.
Oh, yes, there was more in this excellent concert by the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio. The Beethoven Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Opus 1, Number 1, received the needed energy for the opening Allegro, the sweet lyricism to fuel the Adagio cantabile, the ebullience for the Scherzo, and the Haydn essence that influenced not only the Presto Finale but the whole of this early Beethoven effort at chamber music.
For the Dvorak Trio in B-Flat Major, Opus 21, the three performers generously produced those inviting Bohemian colors, the alternating moods of sadness and jubilation, the rhythms of repose and effusive dancing, the celebration of woods and sunlit sky that so often mark Dvorak's music, and they were welcome.
An encore, the last of "Four Music Videos" by the contemporary American composer Paul Schoenfeld, gave the trio a go at music akin to modern film music, super atmospheric and bombastic. Indeed, they went at it. In sum and total, a fine concert.
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