Hans Abrahamsen, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky: Trio con Brio Copenhagen, Caspary Auditorium, Rockefeller University, New York City.
In the appealingly retro geodesic dome that is Rockefeller University’s Caspary Auditorium, the young Trio con Brio Copenhagen began its program with the New York premiere of Traumlieder for Piano Trio by Hans Abrahamsen. Originally written as piano pieces, the work had a second life as a horn trio, before finding its third incarnation here. The six short movements owe a debt to Webern, with the music often materializing in languid pools, punctuated by silence. A striking “Marcia funebre” seems to linger in the air, and the final “For the children” has bell-like effects for the piano against a backdrop of sustained pianissimo notes in the strings. Abrahamsen is one of Denmark’s most important living composers, making the Trio’s eloquent performance even more welcome, since his work is not often seen on concert programs, at least in New York City.
Beethoven’s famous “Ghost” Piano Trio was packed with confidence, plus meticulous dynamic shading; rollicking sections contrasted with somber ones, almost inaudible (where appropriate). The second movement “Largo” seemed to offer listeners an entrance into a private world, with Jens Elvekjaer, the pianist, offering a ruminative piano line. In the final “Presto,” the trio—with sisters Soo-Jin Hong on violin and Soo-Kyung Hong on cello—showed that delicacy and strength can co-exist, especially in the movement’s exciting canonic entrances.
But the real prize came after intermission: a grandly scaled, dramatic reading of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor. In the opening pages, the 1731 Testore cello used by Soo-Kyung Hong was shown at its most soulfully extravagant, and soon joined by sensuous tone from her collaborators. (Her sister uses a 17th century Guarneri violin, and Mr. Elvekjaer is the first Steinway artist from Denmark.) The first movement lands on an ending almost impossibly serene. The fanciful second movement, a theme and variations, shows the composer’s astonishing range, from quietly intimate to sweepingly grandiose—and even a fugue makes an appearance. In the “Variazione Finale” the tempo begins sounding “vivace,” but as the piece nears its conclusion the tempo slows and the energy diminishes, as if life itself is gradually ebbing away. In the final bars, the strings drop out completely and the piano has the last, lone word. The grateful Rockefeller audience waited in silence before breaking out into cheers.
Later I asked some friends why this piece doesn’t show up more often, and the reply: “Too difficult.” You’d never know that from the glowing, effortless reading by these sparkling young musicians.
Berlingske, Søren Schauser, Copenhagen
…The Trio con Brio Copenhagen emerged a few years ago already the perfect players. But the three stars kept on working, bringing the three corners ever closer together, polishing their valuable crystal into something even greater: pure art.
Their reading of Mendelssohn’s piano trios is certainly fantastic. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it was released by the best-kept secret Copenhagen record company of them all, because the soul of the romantic period warms more than just the cockles of our hearts.
Moreover, Jens Elvekjær from Denmark on the piano, his Korean wife on the cello and her sister on the violin are superbly capable. They play differently from their colleagues from recording history: slightly less breezily than the former Beaux Arts Trio. Slightly more together than Istomin, Rose and Stern. Do listen to their new CD or catch one of the many concerts they’re giving these days. Such as tomorrow’s concert at the Tivoli Concert Hall …You’ll relish Soo-Jin’s slender violin playing, nod approvingly at Soo-Kyung’s cello as it generates ever increasing profundity, and admire Jens’s all-embracing piano …Open your eyes and take in this unforgettable dissonance of black, green and turquoise.
Open your ears and take in this perfect unity.
This ideally harmonizing Danish-Korean alliance unfurled a maximum of color interplay, finest nuance, delicate pastel shades, but also expressively forceful colors, in the finale practically kaleidoscope-like, bubbling up effervescently. In addition, the whole was convincingly presented as a single, connected narrative. There was the gently rocking, ever circuitous motion of the second movement, which with its title “Pantoum” seems more to allude to a mysterious and exotic element rather than a specific reference to a Malayan form of poetry; the bleak, reductive Passacaille, which in introverted mood offers an unusual switching back and forth between feelings of solitude and togetherness.