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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Trio Celeste, Beethoven, Piano Trio Op. 1, No. 2, Constellations: Variations on a Theme By Beethoven, Dvorak, Piano Trio No. 4

The Trio Celeste in their new recording (Navona 6030) proceed to give us some familiar and some unfamiliar music, all played with a special rhapsodic directness and lively brio. Beethoven's "Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2" starts off the program, and in itself it is brilliant, brimming over with thematic fullness, lyric joy, and development of a high sort. Trio Celeste gives us a resoundingly appropriate reading and by so doing sets the stage for what follows.

Namely, the collective modern work "Constellations: Variations on a Theme By Beethoven," each based on the main theme of the "Largo con espressione" movement from the very same Beethoven trio. The "constellation" idea, as the liner notes point out, implies a gathering of patterned items, each sharing "both explicit and implicit commonalities."

So we get ten such constellated variations, some resituating the thematic elements into high modernist territory, some reflecting cadenza like approaches, others postmodern contemporary, all of great interest, extending the essence of Beethoven thematics into new territories. The composers are Eugene Drucker, Mike Block, Eric Guinivan, Peter Erskine, Paul Dooley, Fred Hersch, Samuel Adler, Jim Scully, Christina Spinei, and Pierre Jalbert. All breathe their own creative spirit into the theme and there are stunning results, fascinating and beautiful to hear in the hands of Trio Celeste.

The program ends with more good music, a change of pace, in Dvorak's "Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90, 'Dumky.'" It has a lyricism in common with Beethoven, but more of the Eastern European sort, understandably, and of course reflects later developments in the music that Beethoven had much to do with spawning. The reading is a gorgeous one.

So in the end we get a wonderful earful of the exceptional talents of this young trio and a program that brings some of the past into the music world of today. This is a striking release, worth it alone for "Constellations" but giving us the impetus for those variations in the Beethoven trio in a wonderful performance, and then extending our appreciation of the Celeste Trio with very spirited Dvorak.

A recording of great merit! Trio Celeste prevail victoriously over some very beautiful music. The past meets the present and we go away smiling.

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