The San Jose Chamber Music Society presented a superb concert of the Horszowski Trio on November 12 at the Trianon Theater in San Jose. The program leaned heavily on the early Romantic period with trios by Schumann and Mendelssohn. But the central work was the world premiere of Night Migrations by Lisbon-born Andreia Pinto-Correia, commissioned by Chamber Music America for the Horszowski Trio.
Night Migrations was inspired by the poem of the same title by Louise Glück. As explained in the program notes by the composer, “The composition’s structure consists of four nocturnal movements, each of which features contrasting sections; mystical and dark music alternates with fleet, darting episodes that emulate the flight of birds.” The work is best described as coloristic, at times whimsical, and using a vast array of string techniques, including pizzicato, harmonics, glissando and sul ponticello.
The first movement unfolds into a variety of moods, reflecting the poem’s opening: “This is the moment when you see again the red berries of the mountain ash and in the dark sky the birds’ night migrations.” Scurrying sounds in the second movement suggest a forest setting, while the next movement creates effective blocks of sounds. Fluttering effects in the final movement suggest the flight of birds. Movements are clearly separated by a short break, but otherwise there is little contrast in the overall mood, as there are no fast and slow movements, only fast and slow passages within each movement. The listener is awarded ample contrast of texture and sonority. The work is engaging, with a sense of continuity and flow. A striking feature of the writing is that the piano is always held in check to allow even the most delicate string sounds to be clearly heard. This might be the first ever-piano trio that accomplishes a balance of piano and strings where each part can be appreciated.
The piano certainly dominates in Romantic era (19th century) chamber music, with the string players having to compete in weight of sound against the modern piano. Even the most sensitive pianist struggles with this issue. It was a pleasure to hear pianist Rieko Aizawa who was always able to moderate her sound while playing expressively in this exciting premiere.
The inner searching of Robert Schumann was apparent in his 1847 Trio No. 1 in d minor that opened the concert at the Trianon. The rhapsodic first movement has long lines of melody, but even as the piano remained in the background, violinist Jesse Mills lacked substance next to the resonant cello, played by Raman Ramakrishnan. The composer’s indication of “intimate feeling” in the third movement was played as a gentle and lilting though dark melody in the violin and later as a duet. The fiery last movement was an exciting conclusion to the work.
The Trio by Pinto-Correia was a good match with Schumann. An intermission helped to clear the palette for the next work, Trio No. 2 in c minor by Felix Mendelssohn, composed two years before Schumann’s. Mendelssohn sings melodies throughout the score, and the Horszowski sounded inspired by song. The violin and cello duet in the second movement was lovely. In the final movement, Mendelssohn quotes the melody of a chorale taken from the 16th century Geneva psalter “Vor deinem Thron tret ich hiermit.” At first it casts a solemn mood in the chordal statement. But by the end of the movement it grows in power, becoming a heroic statement, closing the work full throttle.
The menu was complete, but an encore was requested by the audience. The Andante from the d minor Trio of Mendelssohn was an added treat.