Music has an amazing power to bring us together, to create a shared experience. Something memorable and moving.
What we witnessed Saturday evening with the performance of two piano trios at All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores was everything great music and great performance should be. The music was complex, evocative and emotional. The musicians Ara Gregorian on violin, Edward Arron on cella and Thomas Sauer performing on piano, were were at the peak of their game.
The result was an evening of music that was truly memorable and moving.
The concert began with Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32.
Arenesky composed his music at the end of the 19th century, the tail end of the romantic movement that included Verdi, Dvořák and Tchaikovsky. He never achieved the notoriety of many of his contemporaries, yet his Opus 32 is as exciting and innovative as anything written during that period.
The piece begins Allegro Moderato with a beautiful lyrical melody line. Complexity builds, the violin and cello seeing to battle each other to establish the melody until the piano explodes dominating the musical landscape.
Yet beneath the piano, the violin and cello continue their dance, each playing a separate counter melody to the piano. Then it resolves in a beautiful final chord.
The second movement is Scherzo.The music was remarkably intricate, establishing quickly the theme for the movement. Again the violin and cello pass the melody back and forth until once again the piano takes over
Unlike the first movement though, there is a sense of tension in the air as the music weaves its way through the instruments of the trio—the violin and cello handing the melody back and forth until the piano comes in, dominating and the strings recede into the background again.
The third movement, Elegiac, is a beautiful piece of music. There is none of the tension of the first two movement here, just an extraordinarily emotional melody line. It is at once dreamlike, tender and perhaps a little sad. The result is that it is a soothing, tuneful, movement in an otherwise elaborate piece of music.
The Finale brings it all together, the variations on the musical themes recapped in a rousing climax highlighting the virtuoso performances of each of the musicians.
The second piece of the evening was Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No.2 in C minor, Op. 66.
Again a remarkable piece of music. Although composed almost 50 years earlier than Arenesky’s Opus 32, many of the same elements exist in Mendelssohn’s work. The tension is there as the piano, violin and cello vie to establish a melody, the piece, lyrical, but not tuneful in the same way as Arenesky’s work.
Yet when the second movement begins, Andante Espressivo, a new world seems to open, a world that is a window into Mendelssohn’s life. In describing the music violist Gregorian suggested there were elements of church compositions in the composition and certainly in the second movement, the chords and feel of the music suggests religious themes.
The third movement Scherzo: Molto allegro quasi presto, starts with a frenetic series of scales and notes, each instrument chasing each other up and down the range of their instruments. The music is fast and furious, difficult to follow at times because there is so much happening yet compelling the listener to pay attention as each note falls into place.
It is a relatively short passage; the pace it sets would be difficult to maintain for much longer than it exists.
The music of the third movement perfectly sets up the Finale: Allegro appassionato.
Again the music is fast, furious and complex, but throughout this final movement elements of the work reemerge. The melody line from the first movement reemerges; the violin soars over the cello and piano.
Finally everything comes together in a final rousing finish that perfectly encapsulates a great composition and an amazing evening of music.
The Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival at All Saints Episcopal Church was brought to the Outer Banks by the Bryan Cultural Series.
Next up for the Bryan Cultural Series will be the 5th Annual Surf and Sounds Chamber Music Series, August 20-23 at various locations around the Outer Banks.