Calgary Herald - - YOU - KEN­NETH DELONG

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.

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