Philip Lewis,
Artistic Director


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Jan-12: Dallas Morning News: Vital nuances sharpen at Chamber Music concert.

As piano trios progress, soloists unveil invigorating detail

By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News

RICHARDSON – It was as if a black-and-white photo were magically transformed into a full-color hologram. Shapes and proportions were clear enough in the first half of the Chamber Music International concert Saturday, but only after intermission were colors and textures revealed. In the first half we were shown pictures of flowers; in the second half we could touch and smell them.

Concerts sometimes happen that way – even when, as Saturday at the Eisemann Center, major-league musicians are involved. In this case, the program of piano trios featured two acclaimed solo artists – pianist Helen Huang and violinist Cho-Liang Lin – and the fine cellist Carter Brey, who had a busy solo and chamber-music career before becoming principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic.

Opening the concert, Beethoven's Kakadu Variations (based on an aria from a forgotten opera) came off as duty, not fun. The notes were earnestly dispatched, the dynamic markings observed, but the music's playfulness – and there's a good deal of it – went unnoticed. The worst offender was Ms. Huang, who played as cleanly as could be imagined without injecting a whiff of personality.

The Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor got a more engaged performance, but the emotional depths of this World War II score seemed more analyzed than viscerally felt. The scherzo wanted less calculation and more abandon, the finale more snap to its rhythms. This is a piece that should leave the listener's nerves on edge, but it didn't.

After intermission came the Mendelssohn C minor Piano Trio, and now the music-making took on a whole new personality – or, rather, it acquired one. Phrases were boldly molded, and sometimes given quite sensuous curves. There were delicious lingerings before and on telling changes of harmony. Even Ms. Huang revealed a wit and warmth scarcely hinted before; it's too bad the piano wasn't more rigorously tuned.

Some of the coordination in the brilliant scherzo wasn't quite flawless, and climactic passages in the finale were played with a vehemence better suited to Bartók. But overall it was a performance to savor.

E-mail scantrell@dallasnews.com

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