Inspired by Horszowski, a Trio Proves Worthy of the Name

United StatesUnited States Beethoven, Tower, and Schubert: Horszowski Trio, Benjamin Franklin Hall, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 29.1.2016 (BJ)

Beethoven: Piano Trio in D major, Op. 70 No. 1, “Ghost”
Tower: For Daniel
Schubert: Piano Trio in E-flat major, D. 929

Violist John Dalley, originally scheduled to join the Horszowski Trio for a performance of the Brahms C-minor Quartet, was regrettably forced by illness to withdraw from the engagement, but the three young members of the ensemble showed themselves fully capable of holding an audience spellbound on their own.

Rieko Aizawa was Mieczysław Horszowski’s last pupil at the Curtis Institute, and her playing clearly reflected the celebrated master-pianist’s influence in its grace of expression, enhanced by the crystalline clarity achieved through her discreetly light pedaling. Her only tiny shortcoming throughout the evening was a failure to make much of the offbeat accents in the Winterreise-like accompaniment figure that opens the slow movement of Schubert’s E-flat-major Trio. For the rest, with Ms. Aizawa’s coruscating figurations partnered by finely floated violin lines from Jesse Mills and eloquently human-sounding cello tone from Raman Ramakrishnan, it would have been hard to imagine a more lucid or passionately compelling performance of that great work.

Beethoven’s so-called “Ghost” Trio is a masterpiece too, though perhaps one not quite so majestic, and it was performed with equal commitment and equal artistry. Here I regretted only that, sensitively as the musicians played the coda of the first movement, their omission of the second repeat—surely an unwarranted decision in a work written so late in the composer’s career—robbed that pithy concluding word of much of its effect.

To denigrate music dedicated in memoriam to someone who has died (or, to put it in the program note’s euphemistically trivializing words, “passed away”) is inevitably to risk being thought a curmudgeon. Nevertheless, the roughly 17-minute trio Joan Tower wrote For Daniel, her late nephew, seemed to me itself a somewhat trivial piece, lacking both in coherent formal design and in a suitable intensity of feeling. Still, it was played just as well as the two classics that surrounded it on the program, and the sheer virtuosity of the Horszowskis, who have recorded the work and clearly love it, sufficed here also to give considerable pleasure.

Bernard Jacobson

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