Wow! Chamber Music Monterey Bay ended its season with a sizzler. The Montrose Trio’s performance was smoking’ hot and just got better and better as the concert went along. Pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith played up a storm and held us enthralled for the better part of two hours. These magnificent musicians, each a great master of his craft, played together as an ensemble with compelling artistry.
The evening’s program turned out to be something of a Haydn sandwich. It began with a charming and stylish performance of Haydn’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Hob. XV:29 and ended with a dazzling and super-nimble performance of the final movement of the great C Major Piano Trio, Hob. XV:43 delivered to the audience at the end of the concert as an encore.
However, the meatiest parts of the sandwich were the two central works on the program, one of which was the most emotionally involving performance of the evening — Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E Minor, Op. 67, a 1944 composition written in memory of a recently departed close friend, musicologist Ivan Sollerinsky. The opening measures of the first movement are truly startling — unaccompanied ghostly harmonics on the cello stating a theme that is then shared by violin and piano. This intriguing opening suggests a hauntingly elegiac mood that comes to fruition in the Largo third movement where the violin and cello expound slowly moving themes over an ostinato bass of sustained chords on the piano. The final movement, Allegretto, moves along energetically with suggestions of folk dances, but always tinged with feelings of sorrow. This performance was enthusiastically received by the audience with prolonged applause and a standing ovation.
The final work on the program was Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 32. Since Arensky is better known as one of the composition teachers of Glière, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff than for his original compositions, My guess is that most members of the audience were hearing the Arensky Piano Trio No. 1 for the first time. Like the Shostakovich trio we heard earlier in the program, Arensky’s elegaic trio is also inspired by the memory of a departed friend, Karl Davidoff, who died in 1889. As a powerful expression of romanticism the Arensky Trio contains a lot of effective writing for piano trio, and Jon Kimura Parker, Martin Beaver and Clive Greensmith gave this work a powerful and meaningful performance that was enthusiastically received by the audience.
Prior to the evening’s concert, we had an opportunity to hear three young students from Carmel High School perform a movement of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor in the lobby of Sunset Center. Pianist Jordi Faxon, violinist Ealaph Tabbaa, and cellist Robbie Valdes were the three young performers who were encouraged to come together to perform chamber music informally by Carmel High School Music Teacher Brian Handley. CMMB Executive Director Andrew T. Sudol appeared on stage prior to the Montrose Trio’s performance to recognize and praise the young Carmel High School musicians and members of the CMMB staff and donors who sponsor and support CMMB’s commitment to encouraging music in our public schools.