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CHAMBER REVIEW
Trio Navarro / Sunday, February 3, 2013
Marilyn Thompson, piano; Jill Rachuy Brindel, cello; Roy Malan, violin.

Trio Navarro

FROM THE MAGISTERIAL TO THE MACABRE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 3, 2013

Two more disparate chamber works could not be imagined in Weill Hall Feb. 3 when the Trio Navarro presented the Shostakovich Trio in E Minor and Dvorak’s “Dumky,” also in E minor. Both masterpieces have riveting audience interest but are worlds apart in structure and harmonic language.

Dvorak’s trio, popular since its premiere in 1891, received a committed and generous reading from the Navarro. The muddy acoustics of the Nov. 18 Schumann Quintet performance by the Navarro Chamber players had vanished, replaced by a direct Weill sound, albeit with a long reverb time due to the tiny audience. There was generous melodic interplay in the opening Lento Maestoso, and the Trio caught the nostalgia of the C-Sharp Minor Adagio. Violinist Roy Malan played here with a wide vibrato and suitable folk rhythms. His double stops at the movement’s end were luxuriant.

The lovely Andante third movement seems to be old hat to this estimable Trio, and they played with a warm sound to let the inherent lyricism shine. In the following two movements, the Trio’s insistent stress on instrumental balance, even in the swirl of dissonances (yes, dissonances in Dvorak, seconds and thirds), was exceptionally rewarding. Jill Brindel’s cello parts in the fifth movement had long sections, sans rubato, where the sound comes low on the fingerboard with unstopped strings. Pianist Marilyn Thompson played off these phrases and carried the Navarro into a magisterial finale that alternated between yearning and wild gaiety. It was a reading of stable nobility and vitality.

Following intermission, the disturbing Shostakovich Trio No. 2, Op. 67, completed the concert. Ms. Brindel played the opening disquieting cello line harmonics with ardor, though not note perfect. All through this demanding 1944 work, the frequent high tessitura of the violin and cello, contrasting with Ms. Thompson tolling deep bass notes and chords, produced a spiritual and at times menacing sonic tapestry. In many sections the Navarro underplayed the overall drama, concentrating on the relentless drive of the music. The second movement Allegro had echoes of the earlier Shostakovich Quintet in G (Op. 57). The somber orchestral piano chords in the third movement (Largo) began a slow march, almost a threnody, and Mr. Malan’s violin playing bordered on the funereal. It was a lament played with care and conviction.

The finale was portrayed by the Navarro as a macabre dance, with frequent cello and violin pizzicato, and an ethereal pianissimo conclusion. There was no thought of an encore, as the great Russian composer’s sorrowful musical outcry was moving to the degree that verbal or instrumental bonbons would be paltry fare.

On balance this was the most stirring chamber music concert I have yet heard in Weill, and there is no reason to change my nearly decade-old pronouncement that the Navarro is the finest piano trio before the public in Northern California.