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Choral and Vocal
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CHAMBER REVIEW

Trio Navarro April 6 in Weill Hall

THEMATIC OPULENCE FROM THE TRIO NAVARRO

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 6, 2014

Northern California’s Trio Navarro presented just two works in an April 6 Weill Hall concert, an event with consummate playing, inspired drama and ample thematic richness.

Schubert’s B-Flat Major Trio, D. 898, was the evening’s highlight and was familiar fare for the estimable Navarro. The wonderful opening Allegro Moderato was initially played with restraint but became warmly lyrical in the exposition and development, yet devoid of any sentimentality. This is music of eternal sunshine.

The sublime Andante featured the duet work of cellist Jill Rachuy Brindel and violinist Victor Romasevich. Their playing was tender but without the slow tempo and sweeping ritards of the iconic Cortot-Thibaud-Casals recording. The many modulations were deftly performed and the ensemble balanced. Pianist Marilyn Thompson was always discretely supportive. With only 65 in the hall that seats more than 1,400, the Trio’s sound was direct and clear below a mezzo-forte with a long reverberation time.

In the concluding Scherzo and Rondo movements the work’s length in less capable hands can sound overly extended, but the Navarro shaped the rise and fall of phrases lovingly, and the chorale in the Scherzo’s middle was elegant. After all, for musicians Schubert has heavenly length.

After intermission Arensky’s first Trio, the now-popular D Minor of Op. 32, was played very well but in the end wasn’t totally convincing. As with the Schubert, the Navarro opted for tempos that were at times brisk with repeats played at a volume and with rhythms that were the same as in exposition. It worked well with the Schubert but didn’t quite capture the ambiance in music inspired by Tchaikovsky and foreshadowing Rachmaninoff.

The majestic first movement theme was played strongly but tonally thin by Mr. Romasevich, and the piano sound in fast runs at half pedal was indistinct and lacking the needed finger staccato. Acoustics in the nearly empty hall contributed to this pianistic blur; the opening of the smaller Schroeder Hall cannot come too soon. The trio in the Scherzo was played in a gay style, almost a waltz, and Arensky’s melodic gifts were spotlighted in the Elegia, begun with Mr. Romasevich’s retuning his violin and a subsequent fervid low register duet with Ms. Brindel.

In sum the performance was never pedestrian but also never quite seized Arensky’s subtle lyricism and late romantic-era phrasing. Clearly Arensky’s neglected second Trio in F Minor, with its poetic cello writing, should be on the Navarro’s list of scores to perform.