Lincoln Trio opens “Jewel Box” series with music of Turina

Sat Sep 20, 2014 at 11:57 am

By Tim Sawyier

The Lincoln Trio performed in Northeastern University's "Jewel Box" series Friday night.
The Lincoln Trio performed in Northeastern University’s “Jewel Box” series Friday night.

Northeastern University’s “Jewel Box” series opened Friday with the Lincoln Trio presenting a concert of varied and infrequently heard repertoire characterized by vital, polished and thoughtful performances.

The musicians (violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, cellist David Cunliffe and pianist Marta Aznavoorian) led off the program with Richard Strauss’ (1864-1949) Piano Trio No. 1, penned when the composer was a mere thirteen years old. The work was certainly that of an adolescent, with the main theme of the first movement amounting to little more than a rising triad, but it was refreshing to hear a composer more associated with huge orchestral works presented in the intimate recital hall at Northeastern.

The bulk of the program was devoted to an unfairly neglected Spanish composer who was almost Strauss’s exact contemporary, Joaquin Turina (1882-1949). The Lincoln Trio has just recorded (in collaboration with numerous high-profile Chicago string players) Turina’s complete chamber works for strings and piano on Chicago’s Cedille record label. Their fluency with the composer’s native Andalusia-infused melodies and textures betrayed the considerable amount of attention to detail and need for perfection that would come from preparing for a studio recording.

The Piano Trio No. 1 dates from early in the composer’s career, and was in fact one of the first piano trios that the group played together as an ensemble (as cellist Cunliffe announced from the stage). The highlight of the brief work is its central theme and variations, where the composer experimented with different Spanish dance idioms. The Lincoln Trio infused each episodic section with an appropriate idiomatic flair.

The second Turina work featured was his Piano Trio No. 2 in F Major from 1904, a work that displays greater polish and refinement, as a result of the composer’s contemporaneous formal study in Paris. The work sounded almost Brahmsian in the Lincoln’s Trio’s hands, with careful attention paid to its contrapuntal intricacies, and a wide palette of sonic colors. Especially memorable was their rendering of the work’s slow movement, where alternating ethereal passages between solo piano and two isolated strings created an almost eerie sense of musical time suspended.

The program was rounded out by a brief work entitled Silver Dagger by Roosevelt University composition professor Stacy Garrop. The piece was written as a thank-you to the trio for performing at the composer’s wedding.

It was unclear what starting a piano trio with the pianist reaching into her instrument and thumping on the strings has to do with connubial bliss, yet Silver Dagger was short enough not to wear out its welcome, especially when offered as a touching tribute to the late Fredda Hyman—longtime host of the “Music in the Loft” series, with whom both the trio and Garrop had long-standing relationships.

A Piazzolla (1921-1992) tango as an encore brought to the evening to a rousing finish.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment