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CHAMBER REVIEW

Boston Trio at Oakmont March 13

GHOSTS AND GYPSIES USHER IN THE SPRING

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 13, 2014

As a harbinger of spring, the Boston Trio brought sprightly piano trios of Haydn and Beethoven to their Music at Oakmont concert March 13 in Berger Auditorium. Happily the long and weighty Dvorak F Minor Trio, Op. 65, didn't manage to dampen the warm afternoon's ambiance.

The Dvorak performance was the most memorable, with a perfect unison in the somber opening phrase from violinist Irina Muresanu and cellist Jennifer Culp, leading quickly to surging themes set out by pianist Heng-Jin Park. This is an episodic movement, at times sounding like Brahms, and it was played with considerable power and insight. Ms. Muresanu's tone is not big, but her intonation is accurate, contrasting well with Ms. Culp's rich lower register and frequent portamento.

The following Allegretto was played in a bouncy fashion, the violin and cello alternating brief riffs in thirds over the piano line, and it had the character of a wild dance. Ms. Park's comments to the audience noted that Dvorak's extended Adagio was the center of the piece. The cello opening over marching chords from the piano was lovely, and the ensemble projected one questioning phrase after another. Ms. Park played with uniform chordal weighting, and the ending, a last unison string chord, was refined.

The finale was played well with majesty in the short themes and little instrumental "hiccups" abounding. A peaceful resignation came only at the end. This long trio seemed not long at all under the Boston's artistry.

Haydn's "Gypsy" Trio from 1795 was a shrewd program opener and received a lively reading. Ms. Park throughout the afternoon showed her discerning command of scales, using a detaché touch in the Haydn and Beethoven, and a more legato touch for Dvorak. Ms. Muresanu, though frequently needing more tonal bloom, often underplays the solo lines, preferring to meld well into the ensemble to an alluring effect. The whirling "Hungarian" Rondo was pungent and often thrusting, and brought a loud ovation from the 200 patrons in the hall.

The "Geister" (Ghost) Trio, Op. 70, No. 1, is one of Beethoven's most popular chamber works, and the Boston's focus here was on instrumental clarity. Following substantial string retuning, the players began the Allegro Vivace at a fast clip, with Ms. Culp's cello projecting a resonant and vocal line. The string unison playing again was impeccable. I found the conception in the famous Largo careful but a little dry, with exquisite violin work from Ms. Muresanu and operatic tremolos for both hands from Ms. Park. Beethoven's astounding creativity was everywhere present in the final Presto, and the ensemble was elegant and everywhere balanced.

In sum, the concert was a splendid mix of the trio repertoire, splendidly played.