Mark Gresham | 11 SEP 2019
KENNESAW, GA— On Tuesday evening the Summit Piano Trio gave an impressive performance of music by Smetana, Mendelssohn and Leclair at the Bailey Performance Center’s Morgan Hall on the campus of Kennesaw State University. Violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, cellist Cahrae Krueger and pianist Robert Henry were joined by guest violinist Kenn Wagner for the concert, which was also live-streamed on the internet.
The program opened with Kim and Wagner performing a Baroque number, the Sonata in e minor, Op. 3, No. 5 by Jean-Marie Leclair l’aîné (1697–1764), one of a dozen sonatas for two unaccompanied violins that comprise his Op. 3 and 12, six sonatas each. Leclair was a violinist and is regarded as the founder of the French school of violin playing, although his compositions reflect pan-European Baroque influences. His three younger brothers, Jean-Marie le cadet, Pierre and Jean-Benoît, were also musicians.
The Sonata offers great interplay equal parts for the two violinists, and Min and Wagner h=gave the piece as joyful performance with detailed inflection and a lithe, forward-moving energy.
In a decisive shift to Romantic repertoire, Kim was joined by Krueger and Henry for the Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15, by Bedřich Smetana. Written in 1855 after the death of his daughter, Bedriska, the dramatic opening theme for solo violin set the tone for the first movement, with a lyrical secondary theme providing brief respite.
The darkly dancing opening of the second movement alludes to the first, with a pair of trios between its iterations: one a lyrical Czech-flavored romance and the other a bit heavier with majestic dotted rhythms. The final return to the opening dance section shifts to the major mode, but ultimately the movement is left with a feeling of something not fully resolved.
There was, however, no doubt of the resolution of the work’s rondo finale, with its sudden fortissimo ending. All in all, it was a bold, exciting performance of this Trio by the first truly nationalistic Czech composer, presaging Dvořák by a generation.
Following an intermission, the concert closed with Felix Mendelssohn’s Trio No. 2 in c minor, Op. 66, a late work which predates Smetana’s trio by 10 years – only two years before Mendelssohn’s death at the age of 38.
The first movement opens in a rather emotionally turbulent mood, harmonically shifting and unfolding into occasionally unanticipated places, followed by a more lyrical second theme, with the composer subsequently making deft use of the contrast. The second movement is simple in its beauty, while the tightly-wound scherzo that follows is technically demanding. The Trio concludes with a rollicking finale that integrates the moods found in the previous movements.
This consistently attention-holding performance was enthusiastically received by the audience, and scores high in the top ranks of chamber concerts I’ve heard within the past year. ■