“There is no finer piano trio than Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson.”—Chicago Sun-Times

The beloved Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio returns to its longtime New York home. For almost four decades it has dedicated itself to masterful performances of the standard trio repertoire—continually expanding that repertoire with new commissions. The trio performs favorites by Dvořák and Brahms and, in honor of the composer’s 85th birthday, André Previn’s Piano Trio No. 2.

The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
      Joseph Kalichstein, piano
      Jaime Laredo, violin
      Sharon Robinson, cello

PREVIN: Piano Trio No. 2

DVOŘÁK: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 26
BRAHMS: Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8

 

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PREVIN: Trio No. 2 for Violin, Cello and Piano

ANDRÉ PREVIN

Born in Berlin, April 6, 1929
Trio No. 2 for Violin, Cello and Piano
Composed in 2011; 20 minutes

Born Andreas Ludwig Priwin into a Berlin family of Russian/Jewish heritage, André Previn emigrated with his mother and father in the late 1930s via Paris to the US. A precociously talented pianist, the boy arrived in California having already studied briefly at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and the Paris Conservatoire. In Los Angeles he was able to continue his studies with outstanding composers and performers who, like the Previn family, had been drawn to Los Angeles and Hollywood, and who formed a significant community of immigrant musicians throughout the World War II years and beyond.

Growing up in Hollywood, Previn found early success as a jazz pianist and a composer of movie scores. Yet, he also had a natural affinity for chamber music of all genres, which would last throughout his entire career, giving him a sure ear for effective balance. Previn’s Trio No. 2 for Violin, Cello and Piano flows directly out of his strengths as a prodigious pianist, jazz musician, and chamber music player. He wrote the three-movement work in 2011 for The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, mindful not only of their virtuosic individual talents, but also of the cohesiveness and flexibility that they have gained in decades of performance together.

The first movement of Trio No. 2 is titled “Tempo I,” without any indication of what that tempo should be. The music itself dictates the tempo, and the cellist and violinist find it in their opening phrase, a flowing duet in 8th notes that is punctuated by a four-note, held piano chord. Previn repeats the string duet, and the piano’s punctuation—this time an altered inversion of the previous piano chord. Then, the piano, taking the tempo established by the strings, moves the trio from its simple introductory measures into an all-out ensemble of flowing themes and shared responsibilities. Individual solo phrases alternate with ensemble passages, increasing the dramatic flair of the first movement.

The cellist’s voice announces the beginning of the second movement, with the tempo indication, “Slowly.” An expressive, 16-bar, upward-moving melody (a variation in quarter notes of the first movement’s brief opening theme) establishes the tender mood. A contrasting center section, in which the three instruments increase the emotional intensity, subsides finally into a quiet resolution.

Previn titles the third movement “Fast,” and for the first (and only) time in the piece he indicates a precise tempo: a dotted quarter=116 [beats per minute]. This whirlwind tempo propels the lively final movement—first in the piano, then in the strings and then tout ensemble—to a brisk conclusion. Throughout the Trio No. 2 Previn’s ear for tension and release guides him to harmonies that are frequently dissonant, but which remain close to a tonal center. The final two chords of the work confirm his position: first a loud, brash cluster of notes in the middle of the piano alone, and finally a swift C-major chord—pizzicato in the cello and violin, over all eight strings—as the piano plays the note C in octaves, with a biting D added for a good-humored conclusion to the Trio.

The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio introduced the Trio No. 2 on May 6, 2012, at a performance in Alice Tully Hall on the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s series. The music was composed under a commission by a consortium of presenters, including Music Accord.

© 2014, Sandra Hyslop

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DVOŘÁK: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 26

ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK

Born in Nelahozeves, Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), September 8, 1841; died in Prague, May 1, 1904
Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 26
Composed in 1876; 29 minutes

Antonín Dvořák wrote prolifically in most of the genres then being performed, and he had a special affection for chamber music. As a professional violist, he professed a certain reluctance about his skills at the piano; yet, he was drawn repeatedly to the instrument in his works for small ensemble, which included many violin/piano and cello/piano duets, four piano trios, two piano quartets and two piano quintets. Dvořák himself was at the keyboard in the first performance of this Piano Trio in G minor, in Turnov, Bohemia, on June 29, 1879.

Written in 1876 rather soon after Dvořák’s two-day-old daughter Josefa had died, the Piano Trio in G minor has acquired a perhaps unwarranted tragic reputation. Yes, the composer was a family man devoted to his children, and, yes, he undoubtedly experienced inexpressible grief upon the death of tiny Josefa. However, Dvořák never indicated a connection between the two events, and he wrote the trio while in the midst of a period of tremendous creativity, composing works that ran the gamut of emotional expression. The Piano Trio in G minor stands on its own feet as a well-composed work whose musical language evokes a sense of seriousness, perhaps sorrow, certainly drama, but we lack evidence that the music specifically represents his daughter’s death or his reaction to it.

Although eclipsed in popularity by the later Piano Trio in E minor (the “Dumky”), the G-minor Piano Trio is an earlier indication of Dvořák’s apparently endless inventiveness—albeit, in this case, less dependent on his Czech folk roots, and more consistent with his admiration for Schubert and an older classical tradition. The Allegro moderato movement, in G minor, is based, economically, on two related themes. It opens with two dramatic chords setting the stage, followed by the introduction of the melodic materials. Dvořák develops these themes with an ear for contrast and drama within a simple format.

The second movement, too, draws its beauty from relatively economical means. The cello sings the lyrical main theme, which turns somewhat sorrowful as the movement progresses. An air of nostalgia hangs over the movement, and it closes on a sorrowful note.

Rhythmic verve infuses the third movement, the Scherzo, with a five-measure motif tossed about by the instruments. Dvořák introduces a gentle mood in the Trio and then returns to the Scherzo’s rhythmic lilt for its conclusion.

The dance spirit continues into the Finale, which, like the first movement, begins with assertive chords—this time in G major. Again, Dvořák composes the movement with an economy of material, developing the themes in quasi-sonata form, and maintaining a spirit of the dance to the very end.

© 2014, Sandra Hyslop

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BRAHMS: Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8

JOHANNES BRAHMS

Born in Hamburg, May 7, 1833; died in Vienna, April 3, 1897
Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8
Composed in 1854, revised in 1889; 33 minutes

Johannes Brahms’s well-known penchant for revising, or even destroying, compositions with which he was unsatisfied has been widely recognized. Even for Brahms, however, the 35-year interval between this Trio’s composition and its later revision is unusual. What happened?

In September 1853 the 20-year-old Brahms had sought out Robert and Clara Schumann, the famous composer and his equally famous concert pianist wife, and the three formed an instant, intimate bond of friendship. Robert Schumann immediately wrote in his journal, the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, a lavishly complimentary essay announcing to the world that Johannes Brahms, composer extraordinaire, had appeared. Shortly thereafter, though, Schumann jumped into the Rhine River in an abortive suicide attempt. He entered an asylum, near Bonn, and would die two and a half years later.

The distraught Brahms, hearing of Schumann’s condition, rushed back to Dusseldorf to lend support to Clara, then in the fifth month of her tenth pregnancy. By then, Brahms was deep into the composition of his first substantial chamber work, the Piano Trio in B major, and it received its first tryout at the Schumann home, with Brahms asking Clara herself to play the piano as an attempt at consolation during her grief. Clara herself professed some reservations about the piece, but nevertheless, upon her recommendation, her publisher, Breitkopf & Hartel, issued the work in 1854, and it received its first public performance in October 1855, in Danzig. Still, perhaps in part due to the tumultuous circumstances surrounding its initial run-through, Brahms was never fully satisfied with the work.

Thirty-five years later the Trio and its flaws were still on Brahms’s mind, and in 1889, while he was on one of his well-known working vacations, he took out the score and began to revise. “With what childlike amusement I spend the lovely summer days you will never guess,” he wrote to Clara. “I have rewritten my B-major Trio.” And to another friend he wrote that he had not provided it “with a wig, but just combed and arranged its hair a little.”

Brahms’s revisions were, in fact, so extensive that it caused some dismay from the many people who had loved the original. For his part, Brahms seemed satisfied with the new version of the Trio, but he was also content to let the original version remain in circulation, though it is rarely heard today. Brahms himself was at the piano when the new Op. 8 was premiered in Budapest on January 10, 1890, with violinist Jeno Hubay and cellist David Popper.

The two versions of the B-major Trio have been widely analyzed and compared—analyses that are easily available to those wanting further insights into the music. The sonata-form first movement of the revision is built upon a principle theme in B major and a secondary theme in G sharp minor, both introduced by the piano. After a huge climax, the strings reiterate the main theme, which introduces a brief recapitulation before the conclusion. Brahms left the second movement, Scherzo, relatively untouched in his revision. Its changing moods include light-heartedness, exuberance, warmth and drama, with a repetition of the Scherzo and a short coda to complete the movement.

The third movement, an Adagio in three-part form, contains familiar Brahmsian features: rich timbre in the strings over the piano’s full sound, moving dialogue between the piano and the strings, and a passionate cello theme. The cello introduces the Finale as well, with a second theme emerging energetically from the piano. The movement closes with a coda in which the first subject predominates.

© 2014, Sandra Hyslop

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Artist Bio

The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio

After 38 years of success the world over, The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio continues to dazzle audiences and critics alike. Since making their debut at the White House for President Carter's Inauguration in January 1977, pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson have set the standard for performance of the piano trio literature. The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio balances the careers of three internationally-acclaimed soloists while making annual appearances at many of the world's major concert halls, commissioning new works, and maintaining an active, award-winning recording agenda.

Highlights of the Trio’s 2014/15 season include recitals in Cincinnati, Miami and Washington, DC, as well as the complete three-concert cycle of the Beethoven trios for the Detroit Chamber Music Society. On the recording front, The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio has just released a CD of works written for them by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, including her Quintet, Septet and Trio on the Azica label. The Trio also recently released a double CD set of Schubert on the Bridge label to great acclaim.

The Trio’s previous recording projects on KOCH include a 4-disc cycle of the complete Brahms trios, a two-volume set of the complete Beethoven trios, and a disc of Arensky & Tchaikovsky trios. In addition, KOCH re-released many of The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio’s hallmark recordings, including chamber works of Maurice Ravel; Richard Danielpour’s piano trio, A Child’s Reliquary, and double concerto, In the Arms of the Beloved; and Legacies, featuring trios written especially for the group by Pärt, Zwilich, Kirchner and Silverman.

Musical America named The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio the Ensemble of the Year for 2002. Since the 2003/04 season it has served as Chamber Ensemble in Residence at the Kennedy Center. The Trio is particularly celebrated for its commissioning projects, often made with consortiums of concert presenters, guaranteeing multiple performances. It has commissioned more than two dozen works by both renowned veterans like David del Tredici and Ned Rorem and newcomers like David Ludwig. It opened 92Y’s 2011/12 season with the world premiere of Stanley Silverman’s Piano Trio, No. 2, “Reveille,” featuring Sting.

Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson both serve on the music faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where they began teaching in 2012 after holding positions at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music for seven years. Joseph Kalichstein continues as a long-revered teacher at the Juilliard School of Music. The Trio’s website is kalichstein-laredo-robinson-trio.com.

Photo: Christian Steiner


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