Trio Solisti with Amy Burton, Soprano @ Libby Gardner Concert Hall 01.22

Posted January 28, 2013 in

Trio Solisti adapted what is conventionally a quartet musical form to three people. Photo: Lisa Marie Mazzucco

As the concert series comes to a close, I am continually surprised at the variety of performances that can be found within a simple setup. The Trio Solisti was no exception, as the typical quartet parameters were expanded to reinvent what is typically found in a chamber performance.  

Starting the evening with Beethoven's "14 Variations, Op. 44" was a pleasant beginning to showcase the skill shared between the three players. While Jon Klibonoff on the piano seemed to dominate this piece, there were certainly moments where both Maria Bachmann (on violin) and Alexis Pia Gerlach (on cello) shined. While the title suggests variations, it being only one opus meant that the variations were limited. This short piece felt like a greeting, something to be played while a party begins and you have just arrived and are taking off your coat. The opus was pleasant, light and simple, with a timid beginning that slightly crescendoed throughout. 
After this, Amy Burton as soprano was introduced to the stage. This is the first (and I believe the only) concert this season to include a singer, which took a little getting used to. Typically with chamber music, the performers are a string quartet, performing purely instrumental pieces. With the added dimension of a singer and piano, this kind of threw me off. The group started with Moravec's "Vita Brevis," which included a selection of five songs with a wide range of emotions. Starting with one entitled "Lullaby," I was further thrown off when the music was dramatic and eerie rather than calming. However well Burton sang, I would probably opt out of being sung that song to sleep. The entirety of this collection, written by a contemporary composer, was a reflection on the brevity of life. My personal favorite was the "Mezzo Cammin," which took a short selection from Dante and was sung in Latin. Although this song was a bit overdramatic, lamenting the loss of youth and the coming of old age, I dug the melancholic expression of the deep and low string notes. 
Up next was another Beethoven, this being "Songs for Soprano, Violin, and Piano." These were commissioned pieces by George Thomson from Scotland, who wanted arrangements of Irish, Scottish, Welsh and other European folk songs. According to the program notes, the only thing that Thomson provided for Beethoven was the melodies and the request to keep the accompaniments simple. With that, the songs combine elements of Classical style so characteristic of Beethoven, along with the style of the folk songs. This combination, while a bit awkward, was handled well by the performers. From this collection, "The Sweetest Lad was Jamie" was a highlight as it told a tale of typical love games. I used to play all sorts of fairy fantasy games as a kid, so of course I enjoyed "Elfin Fairies." This song was high-pitched and felt airy and float-y like one would feel as a fairy, with majestic jesting and giggles and all. 
The next piece by Schubert felt like a familiar operatic piece, it being typical of the style that he pushed with the German Lied, which often take themes of pastoral or romantic nostalgia. This particular piece, "Shepherd on the Rock, Op. 129, D. 965" covers a wide range of emotions that represent a lonely shepherd's thoughts, which turn into hope with the coming of spring. Although written for a clarinet, piano and soprano, the performance on this night included the soprano, piano and violin. Concluding the evening came a work by Ernest Chausson, "Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 3." This brought back the trio without the soprano. Although the singing throughout the night was performed with a real knack for the craft, it was refreshing to be brought back to the instrumental pieces. The program notes on this piece mentioned that Chausson was inspired by Russian literature, which definitely shows through his darker, gloomy pieces. This gloom was apparent during "Pas trop lent" and "Assez lent," with hints of the same themes even in the lighter pieces, "Vite" and "Animé.” 
Three concerts remain for the season, and you can find the schedule online at
Trio Solisti adapted what is conventionally a quartet musical form to three people. Photo: Lisa Marie Mazzucco