Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Montrose Trio plays Haydn, Mendelssohn and exhilarating world premiere in opener for The Friends of Chamber Music

The Montrose Trio kicked off the Friends of Chamber Music’s 77th season with sterling performances of beloved piano trios by Franz Joseph Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn, and gave a vibrant interpretation of world premiere of “Temple Visions” by American composer James Lee III. The concert took place on Monday evening (Oct 5) in front of an enthusiastic audience at Lincoln Hall on the campus of Portland State University. Pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Martin Beaver, and cellist Clive Greensmith are well known in Portland, but not in as a trio. That’s because they have collaborated together when Beaver and Greensmith were members of the famed Tokyo String Quartet, which, before it disbanded in 2013, often played with Parker.

Speaking of Parker, one of the coolest things about him in this concert was his ability of listen and adjust the dynamics of his playing with to perfectly compliment that of his colleagues. He found the lightest textures and crafted sounds that were sparkling clear and natural. Consequently, the blended sound of the ensemble was exquisite, especially during their playing of Haydn’s Trio in E Major, which moved along gracefully yet with a twinkle in the ears.

A firework of virtuosic technique by all members of the ensemble was on display during “Temple Visions,” which was co-commissioned by the Friends of Chamber Music. According to the program notes, written by Lee III, the four-movement piece was inspired by “the design and history of the Hebrew temple from the Bible,” and in particular through the Book of Revelation.” Fast and furious playing by all members of the ensemble aptly reflected the opening movement, “Internal Conflict.” The second movement, “Galactic Districts” reveled in nervous energy. The third movement, “A City Mourned,” featured a lovely and expansive cello solo by Greensmith at the outset. The fourth, “Final Resolutions” was propelled by clashing and driving currents – as if each musician was striving for the upper hand in a contest that threatened to spill out of bounds. If nothing else, “Temple Visions” was an exhilarating piece, and I would love to hear it again to make more sense of its direction.

The ensemble delivered a wonderful performance of Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor, and I loved Greensmith’s buttery smooth sound. But he should have played a little louder whenever he took over the theme. That would have taken the ensemble’s interpretation up just a hair higher.

Responding to the standing ovation, The Montrose Trio gave a heart-stomping, scintillating encore, the scherzo from the Shostakovich Trio. Concert goers had to catch their breath on the way to the exit.

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