RESULTS ARE VARIED AS MONTROSE TRIO TACKLES MUSIC OF THREE COMPOSERS
As in previous years, this year’s Honens International Piano Competition’s September minifestival is offering a variety of piano-related events, this time with a Canada 150 theme.
The festival is featuring the recent winner of the competition (Lucca Buratto), as well as previous winners (Catherine Chi) in full evening concerts. There are also concerts that include CPO players and the Cecelia String Quartet (with Buratto), itself a Canadian group and a winner of the Banff International String Quartet Competition. Plenty of Canadian content here.
Opening the festival was a concert by the Montrose Trio, an ensemble that includes the prominent Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker. He is the incoming artistic director of Honens beginning in 2018, so the concert provided an introduction (mostly not needed) to the Calgary community. His name made the concert a draw, and there was a sizable audience for this event.
Formed relatively recently, the Montrose Trio groups Parker with prominent Canadian violinist Martin Beaver and Clive Greensmith, the cellist of the last incarnation of the Tokyo String Quartet. All three have had plenty of experience as chamber music performers, and it was no surprise to discover that their music making was on a very high level.
The program Thursday night at the Jack Singer Concert Hall included a mainstream reper- toire by Haydn, Shostakovich and Arensky — all served up with the energy and dash one tends to expect when the ebullient Parker is part of the proceedings. While there was much to enjoy here, it might be said that the size of the hall blunted somewhat the full impact of the playing.
As a performance, the opening Haydn Piano Trio in E-flat major fared the best, the individual lines delivered crisply and cleanly and with a full understanding of Haydn’s wit and charm. Beaver’s polished, in-tune handling of the melodies was a strength here, as was the elegant passagework by Parker. The finale, a charmer, came off very well indeed, an expression of Haydn’s sense of musical playfulness.
Things were less settled in the Shostakovich Trio in E minor that followed, beginning with an unsettled cello opening that did little to project the thin, bleak character of the music. But the sense here, mostly, was that such nuanced moods as this are almost impossible to convey in a hall of this size.
In general, this was a solid performance of this modern classic, and the powerful finale never fails to make its point. But there have been a fair number of performances of this work in the city in the past few years, several of them of greater emotional impact and depth.
But, as previously said, the size of the venue for intimate chamber music worked against the performance.
The Arensky Trio in D minor is always a crowd-pleaser, and so it was on this occasion; the melodies irresistible, as is the charm of the faster-than-fast scherzo movement. There was much to enjoy in this performance, not the least Parker’s brilliant work in a piece that requires much from the pianist. But this performance did not erase the memory of several finer accounts of this trio, including those by the Herz trio, the founding ensemble of the Calgary Pro Musica Society.
The opening movement came off as rather phlegmatic, the melodic ideas in the violin played in a polite Canadian manner, but hardly with Russian romantic passion. In general, the later movements were more convincing, especially the quicksilver scherzo.
With the number of superb piano trios before the public these days, the standard of performance in mainstream repertoire is now extremely high. While the Montrose Trio can certainly be numbered in the top group of such ensembles, they did not — on this one occasion — distance themselves from other equally fine trios that have graced Calgary stages in recent years.
Some of the best moments of the evening came at the very end, with a tremendously clever encore treating O Canada to an arrangement in the styles of all three composers, followed by a brilliant, ultrafast account of the scherzo movement of Mendelssohn’s popular Piano Trio in D minor.
The Montrose Trio consists of violinist Martin Beaver, pianist Jon Kimura Parker and Clive Greensmith on cello.