Hot on the heels of the magnificent performance by Cuarteto Quiroga from Spain the Bay Area’s own Delphi Trio gave the fourth and final program in this season’s Sunset Concerts at April 25 at St. Luke’s Church in Los Gatos. Now in its 16th season this series is the brainchild of artistic director Ted Lorraine who approaches e big names of chamber music who are accustomed to playing in much larger venues, and gets them to perform in the intimate setting of St Luke’s which has a totally capacity of 150 seats. Built in 1883, though destroyed by fire it was subsequently rebuilt and later extensively renovated, maintaining its mission-style atmosphere.
As I listened to the opening work, the late piano trio No. 43 in C major, by Franz Joseph Haydn I had the feeling of being taken back in time over two hundred years not to a California Mission but to a small room in Austria, situated in the Esterhazy Palace where Haydn lived at the musical beck and call of Prince Nickolaus Esterhazy. This particular trio is dedicated to Therese Jansen Bartolozzi, an eminent pianist whose career flourished in London around the end of the 18th century, and was written after Haydn’s sojourn in England. The tone of our evening’s entertainment was established immediately. Rarely I have seen such sparkle and animation in an opening number, and amazingly, this level of enthusiasm was maintained for the whole concert – a marathon of two and a half hours including the intermission. The energy was contagious and the way in which each performer communicated with the others was a veritable lesson in ensemble playing.
Since coming to the fore on the classical music scene four years ago the trio has performed in Europe, Canada and throughout California. This season has also seen the release of the Delphi Trio’s first commercial recording. Throughout the evening these three expressive musicians, who first got together as students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, performed with confidence, precision and a masterful ability to capture the subtle expressions in a wide variety of music. The radiance on founding member Jeffrey LaDeur’s face as he expressed his emotions in the Haydn, which for all intents and purposes is a piano sonata with string accompaniment, was a joy to behold. In the Faure trio in D Minor, Op. 120, LaDeur skillfully darkened the Steinway’s tone suiting the more somber and introspective moments of this piece. The opening of the Faure had the instrumentation and texture of a cello sonata and provided an opportunity to hear the richness of tone of the Bay Area’s Michelle Kwon, who has worked with many of the world’s premier conductors. Like Kwon, violinist Liana Bérubé pursues many different styles of music genres and the two have collaborated with many rock and pop artists.
The final piece on the program was Schubert’s big Piano Trio in E-flat major, Op. 100, written in the last year of his short life. This masterpiece of the form is a work of epic proportions not just in its length, but in its tremendous variety of moods from the dark intensity of the Andante con moto, with an underlying unease chipping away at a delicate melodic line, a feature of so much of Schubert’s solo piano work. I was disappointed that this monumental work did not feature as the only work in the half. Movements from Henry Cowell’s Piano Trio in Nine Short Movements were divided between the first and second halves, and though creating a lovely contrast to the other trios featured I found myself still digesting the Cowell, especially the 6th movement (when I’m sure I heard a cat meow before tip-toeing across the keyboard) when I wanted to give my full attention to Schubert’s work which the trio played with a youthful exuberance that connected so well with an enthusiastic full house.