Eclecticism has always been a high calling of the
Prometheus Trio. So when the group had the chance to perform with the Milwaukee
Symphony Orchestra’s Matthew Annin, they didn’t pass it up.
This was despite the fact that music for piano trio
(violin, cello and piano) together with horn (Annin’s instrument) is
practically non-existent. Instead, the trio and Annin played heady game of
musical chairs, mixing and matching duets and trios that gave all the players
their share of opportunities.
So the program at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music included
both rarities and relative chestnuts. And was a delight from beginning to end.
Beethoven’s early c-minor Piano Trio was a playful
beginning. This is Beethoven at his wittiest, but it’s not without its technical
challenges, particularly in the piano part, which features rapid runs
underneath the lyrical string melodies, or—in the third movement—leading in to
them. Stefanie Jacob handled them with just the right feeling, delicate but
still substantial. And the trio navigated the tricky rhythms in the third
movement, and had a good time doing so. There were smiles all around.
Annin joined cellist Scott Tisdel for the next piece,
David Amram’s “Three Songs for Marlboro,” written in 1962 while Amram—a horn
player himself—was at the Marlboro Music Festival. The combination of horn and
cello is an interesting match: they are instruments of similar range but very
different sonorities. And Amram uses each instrument in creative ways, often
pitting each against the other in angular, cat-and-mouse melodies. Other times,
there is a more traditional solo-accompanist feel, with the horn sounding deep
ostinatos while the cello plays cascading figures. It’s a bravura piece that
Tisdel and Annin ended with a spectacular jazzy flourish.
If hints of jazz came off Amram’s duo, Bohuslav Martinu’s
Duo No. 1 had more than a hint of the eastern European “gypsy” inflections.
Violinist Timothy Clabunde joined Tisdel in the two sections—the first a deliberate
“Preludium” of parallel harmonies that hinted at the mysterious darkness of
early Stravinsky. It was off to the races in the second section, however, with
passages of dance-like double stops and virtuoso unison lines. It was played
The Trio for Piano, Violin & Waldhorn (Op. 40) by
Brahms is probably the best known work on the program. Written during a country
summer near Baden-Baden, the piece uses the horn in ways you might expect,
calling to mind the pastoral environment as well as the occasional bursts of
horn. Annin played true to the Waldhorn style, with an assertive tone. But he and
Klabunde found the aching lyricism of the classic Brahms melody in the beautiful
adagio, before galloping into the finale with the evocation of galloping horses
and hunting calls.
Since the group couldn’t find a quartet to play together,
they created their own for a well-deserved encore—a gorgeous arrangement of the
Beach Boys’s “God Only Knows.”
The program repeats Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.