Sometimes you find a wonderful experience when you least expect it. I had the pleasure of listening to a fine collection of Sonatas for piano and strings in the afternoon of Feb. 10, 2019. The Carmel Trio (Nicola Samra, Violin; Christopher Healy, Cello; and James Neiman, Piano) presented 3 works: Two Sonatas for piano and violin (Mozart and Beethoven) and a Sonata for piano and cello (Rachmaninoff). Our thanks to the community of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Aptos for sharing their space. I thoroughly enjoyed the fine performance.
Aptos can be a bit of a drive for me. Okay, it’s the views of the ocean that make the drive enjoyable, but those views can make it difficult to go inside and sit down for a couple of hours. A brisk walk in the fresh air is enticing. I’m glad I decided to come out of the chilly breeze for this concert. The space is wonderful! Lots of wood, full windows, and a fine instrument greeted me as I walked in the door. The acoustics and intimate setting made it easy to see and hear. I knew I was in for a treat.
It can be very refreshing to hear highly trained professionals who live real lives. And real lives are a bit unpredictable. We learned that Sunday’s program was a substitution. Dr. James Neiman contacted Nicola Samra and Chris Healy to ask if they would join him to fill a cancelation. I thank them for taking time in their busy lives at a short notice to prepare the pieces and to present them for our listening pleasure.
After a warm greeting, we were treated to Mozart’s Piano and Violin Sonata in B-flat Major, K.378. Violinist Samra and pianist Neiman brought the music alive with their stylish interpretation. String students could recognize well executed technique. Piano students could recognize artistic collaboration. Those who know Mozart, would recognize the French influences with duple against triple and playful dialogue sections.
Then on to Beethoven! The “Spring” Sonata in F Major, Op. 24, is a wonderful example of expressive Sonata form. We were led through the various themes with variations, exchanges of melodies and harmonies, and sensitive interpretation. A bit of “comfort listening”.
After Intermission, we settled in for an offering of chamber music with a Romantic flair. Rachmaninoff pieces are demanding; both the pianist and cellist must be equally technically proficient. They must allow each other to shine and support each other’s interpretation. Healy and Neiman brought Op. 19 alive with great sensitivity and true respect. With the piano introducing the themes to be expanded upon by the cello, there was always something to focus on. Even those who dipped their heads or closed their eyes to the afternoon sun shining in the windows behind the instruments were not lulled, but engaged.
I will return for future concerts. Thoughtful, meticulous musicianship offered to an attentive, appreciative audience makes for a rewarding afternoon. It is refreshing to discover who enjoys playing what, and the modest ticket price keeps the concert series accessible. I hope in the future there will be parents or teachers who take opportunities like these to expose future musicians and future audience members to real concerts by real people. I hope to return for future Aptos Keyboard Series concerts to learn more about keyboard music and those who practice, practice, practice.