Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lysander Piano Trio. July 18, 2017.

Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University.  General Admission (Balcony Left, free).

Intermezzo from “Goyescas” by Granados (1867-1916), arr. Cassado (1897-1966).
Around a Cauldron (2016) by Cohen (b. 1980).
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 in E-flat Major by Liszt (1811-1886).
D’un matin de printemps by Boulanger (1893-1918).
Piano Trio in A minor (1914) by Ravel (1875-1937).

Liza Stepanova, piano; Itamar Zorman, violin; Michael Katz, cello.

This was another concert in the Princeton Summer Chamber Series.  I lamented in my last post that by the time I tried to get tickets on the web, they were all gone.  The website mentioned that some would be available at 6 pm on the day of the concert, and we decided to give it a try.  Anne was told there were a few tickets available, and she got two – I was trying to find a place to park the car.  We had a simple dinner a Mamoun again.  While the concert was well-attended, there were quite a few empty seats in the balcony (about 2 sections worth.)  I wonder how many who wanted to hear the concert didn’t show up because of this ticketing policy.  Today they scanned the tickets, which really wasn’t necessary.

The trio was formed while the musicians were in Julliard together in 2009, and has managed to snag a few prizes in the meantime.  I looked up Itamar Zorman on the web, he is the son of a composer father and a pianist mother, lives in Israel, was the recipient of an Avery Fisher grant, and plays a Guarneri violin.  Impressive credentials.

The musicians took turns remarking about the pieces on the program.  The Intermezzo was written by Enrique Granados as part of a Catalan opera based on Goya’s paintings so there would be time for scenery changes.  It was arranged into a piano trio y Gaspar Cassado.

Gilad Cohen got his doctorate in music from Princeton, and now teaches at Ramapo College.  His thesis and research seemed to concentrate to Pink Floyd.  On his website he refers to himself as an Israeli composer and pianist.  He was on hand to describe his composition, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth: dark forest night, cricket sounds, three witches (perhaps the trio?) dancing around a cauldron.  The piece has 7 scenes: In Dusk, Pounce, Transmutation, Boiling, Witches Waltz, Newts’ Lament, and Sacrificial; the last scene recalls some tunes – such as they are – from the first six.  While the scenes are self-explanatory, I found it difficult to tell where they were as the piece was played without a break.  There was a lot of screeching in the string instruments, and at some point the pianist stood up and did something to the sound board as she hit the keys.  This is a piece I would listen to again if I have the chance, and also perhaps to understand its structure in more depth.

Gilad Cohen joined the Lysander Trio after performance of his Trio "Around a Cauldron."

According to the cellist, Liszt was considered a superstar in his day.  The Hungarian Rhapsodies were originally written for the piano, but Liszt transcribed No. 9 for the piano trio as well, and this is the only known chamber music the composer wrote.  The piece is longer than I would expect of a Rhapsody, and presented a lot of challenges for the musicians, which they tackled with ease.

Lili Boulanger was from a musician family.  She was considered a prodigy at age two, and was the first female winner of the Prix de Rome composition prize in 1913.  Unfortunately, she contracted bronchial pneumonia at that age also, and lived only to age 24.  The symphonic poem “One Spring Morning” was composed during the last year of her life.  She transcribed the work into different forms, including a piano trio.

Ravel’s piece was quite long at about 30 minutes.  It consisted of four movements Modere; Pantoum: Assez vif; Pasccacaille: Tre large; and Finale: Anime.  Zorman didn’t use the provided microphone when he described the piece, so I missed some of it.  The first movement is marked 8/8, but the structure of the measure is 3-2-3.  I had a look at the music beforehand, but the sound wasn’t as unusual as I expected.  The second movement is Malaysian in character, although I couldn’t tell.  The third movement is a Passacaglia.  The last movement describes a dawn that was both glorious and terrifying. 

For the encore they played Joseph Suk’s Elegy.

As I looked over the blog, I noticed there was much discussion about the music, but not much about how it came across.  The musicians met the challenges, and overall the sound balance was very good.

However, in the middle of Ravel I felt a bit tired.  Not physically tired, but I didn’t find the piece engaging.  That could be the length of the program, or how the pieces were ordered in the program.  For instance, trying to grasp the Cauldron piece required a lot of mental energy, and I might have decided not to work as hard at getting the Ravel trio.

Oh, we were wondering how the pianist turned the pages on her iPad.  We noticed from its blinking green light the foot-switch used for that purpose.

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