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Horszowski Trio was a Pleasure

by David K. Rodgers

GREENSBORO – What a tremendous pleasure it was on July 12 to attend a live performance of the first concert presented this summer by Summer Music from Greensboro at the Greensboro United Church of Christ after an unfortunate absence of two years due to the Covid epidemic.

Featuring the Horszowski Trio in an intriguing program of works by Smetana, Bernstein and Schumann, the three excellent musicians – Jesse Mills on violin, Ole Akahoshi on cello, and Rieko Aizawa on piano – played with a vigorous enthusiasm and impressive ensemble coordination that thoroughly engaged the audience from the outset.

The trio takes its name from the legendary pianist and teacher Mieczyslaw Horszowski of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. The three members all have remarkable resumes of concerts at major venues around the world, as well as many individual and group recordings.

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) was a Czech composer best known for his dramatic orchestral pieces such as “The Moldau” and “Ma Vlast” (“My Life”), and his still popular opera, “The Bartered Bride,” which are notable for their sweeping melodies. His “Trio in G minor, Op. l5,” written in 1854-55, demonstrates that he early on found his own original voice, reflecting the enrichment of the classical music traditions in the Nineteenth Century with innovative complex rhythms from Eastern European folk music, which soon became a major influence in the works of Lizst, Brahms and Dvorak. These artists inspired and paralleled the emerging nationalistic political trends of their times. The three sections, scored moderato assai, allegro, ma non agitato and Finale: Presto, embody both autobiographical elements of Smetana’s personal life (the death of one of his young daughters) and the typical juxtaposition in contemporary Nineteenth Century Romanticism of light and dark moments. The Horszowski Trio played with consummate musicianship, giving each note its proper feeling in this richly harmonic work.

Leonard Bernstein’s “Trio,” composed in 1937 when Bernstein (1918-1990) was but 19 years of age, shows that even a teenager can create significant works of music (as seen in precocious composers like Mozart, Schubert and Mendelsohn), for curiously the ability to write music (and poetry) can mature much earlier than in the other arts. Still at Harvard and studying under Walter Piston at the time, Bernstein already exhibits here his melodic gift and the experimental confluences of a number of vectors, from traditional counter point to jazz. Again, the Horszowski Trio gave a compelling performance of this relatively unknown piece.

The last part of the program was the “Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op.63,” by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), written in 1847. The romantic yin-yang oscillating polarity of moods is in full display here, both as a literary and musical style, and as a deeper reflection of Schumann’s own internal instability, which ended tragically in the next decade. The four movements have a strong momentum that, like all great works of art, draw us into its world. The tempos of the first, second and last sections are marked respectively, With Energy and Passion, Quick but not too Rapid, and With Fire, Diminishing in Speed, juxtaposed with the third movement which is Slow, with Heartfelt feeling. The Horszowski Trio played here with a corresponding high energy and precision that made this concert a particularly memorable one. I certainly hope that they will return in future summers.

Summer Music from Greensboro will present the Neave Trio in concert on Tuesday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m., at the Greensboro United Church of Christ.

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