Montrose Trio brings vigor and elegance to Rockport Chamber Music Festival

June 17, 2018 at 12:04 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

The Montrose Trio performed Saturday night at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. Photo: Shayne Gray

The Montrose Trio performed Saturday night at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. Photo: Shayne Gray

The final movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor contains a curious quotation. Sounding first in the piano then in the strings, the tune seems to reflect two different chorales: “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Crist” and “Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir.”

And while scholars have disagreed on Mendelssohn’s exact source, the quotation brings a striking spiritual touch to a work known for its brooding emotionalism. When the Montrose Trio played the passage Saturday night at the Shalin Liu Performance Center as part of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, it resounded with both reverence and vigor.

Indeed, those qualities were the hallmarks of the trio’s sound. Pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Martin Beaver, and cellist Clive Greensmith play together with polish and even panache. The strings brought soft elegance to Mendelssohn’s textures while Parker supplied weight and gravity to the piano part without tipping the ensemble’s balance.

Many trios play Mendelssohn’s darkly lyrical score with the same kind of edge-of-seat quality reserved for Beethoven’s music. But the Montrose Trio found an intimacy and inviting warmth in this music. The players rendered the first movement with delicacy, though Mendelssohn’s rhythms still managed to course with energy. Even the Scherzo was effectively understated; hushed but driving, the players’ lines seemed to churn like a distant storm out at sea. The second movement, like one of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, was a scene of rare musical beauty.

Colors abounded in Joaquín Turina’s Piano Trio No. 2 in B minor, which opened the program. Completed in 1933, this infrequently played masterwork is rife with Brahmsian lyricism, Debussyian harmonies, and Spanish flair.

Greensmith floated a surging cello line in the first movement, to which Beaver answered with sweet-toned grace. Parker’s piano chords in the Scherzo shimmered like chimes against the strings. In the finale, his chords sounded with deep resonance while Beaver and Greensmith covered his figures with supple phrases.

The Montrose Trio is also capable of playing with robust intensity. The final work on the program, Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, flowed, crested, and ebbed like a great wave.

Joining the trio was violist Barry Shiffman, who took over as artistic director of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival after David Deveau stepped down last summer. Shiffman was a fine fit to the ensemble, matching the players with expressive force. The first movement uncoiled like a tightly wound spring as Parker traded radiant phrases with the strings. The buoyant Intermezzo shifted with varying shades of light and dark.

In the middle of the third movement, Brahms included a sly little march that builds to a towering climax. There, the musicians’ exuberant playing caused Shiffman to break a string. After a repair and quick tune up, the performers continued and navigated Brahms’ orchestral-like textures with finesse. The mishap didn’t seem to faze the ensemble. When they delved into the famous Gypsy Rondo of the Finale, the music blazed with requisite fire and fury to put an exclamation point on a concert characterized by both sensitivity and power.

The Rockport Chamber Music Festival will feature pianist Frederic Chiu, cellist Andrés Díaz, and clarinetist Todd Palmer in music by Bach, Prokofiev, Messiaen, and Tan Dun 5 p.m. Sunday at the Shalin Liu Performance Center. rockportmusic.org; 978-546-7391

 

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