The Brown-Urioste-Canellakis Trio Nov. 5, Duane Smith Auditorium, Los Alamos
The Brown-Urioste-Canellakis Trio
Watching violinist Elena Urioste, cellist Nicholas Canellakis, and pianist Michael Brown onstage at their Los Alamos Concert Association recital last weekend, one could not help but sense how much these musicians enjoy making music together. They acknowledged each other through frequent glances and often shared smiles over moments that doubtless had backstories we will never know. Though early in their careers, they possess résumés that document impressive achievements both with the trio and in endeavors apart.
On a strictly musical level, it was not entirely clear why these three musicians would be destined to perform as a trio, so distinct are their individual styles. Urioste tends toward objectivism in her playing. Her sound is focused and somewhat tight. She hardly bent a single tone with portamento the whole evening. One imagines her most in her element as a Bach and Mozart player rather than sighing with the Romantics. Canellakis draws on a broader spectrum of tone and technical effect; he seemed the most hard-driving of the group, and one suspects he is the ensemble’s dominant personality. Brown filled in the middle-ground like a mediator, technically adept as an interpreter but most captivating through the natural musicality he projected, even in a hall that (curiously) swallowed up the piano’s sound in relation to the strings.
The intersection of their considerable talents may have been shown off to best advantage in their opening piece, Haydn’s Trio in E-flat major (Hob. XV/29). It was a pity that the performance was marred by an irregular, high-pitched chirp, toward which many in the audience directed glares in all but the loudest passages. I have experienced this before in the Duane Smith Auditorium, and I think it may result from feedback from an audio enhancement system. Whatever it was, it was corrected after the Haydn. For future reference, though, the concert association might do well to request a moment of silence before its concerts so that the problem, if it occurs again, can be addressed before the music begins.
Ernest Chausson’s Trio in G minor, from 1881, is rather in the style of the composer’s teacher, César Franck, with an added dose of the Franco-Russian spirit popular in Parisian circles at the time. True to form, Canellakis pushed the piece along, Urioste imposed reserved discipline, and Brown receded into the background. They put across the more febrile passages effectively, and they achieved charming flirtatiousness in the finale, which seems a sunny stroll in the style of Renoir after the somber movements that precede it. Josef Suk’s brief Elegy, from 1902, might have benefited from more wistfulness, but the group hewed to its more forward interpretation, which invited comparison (in both melody and attitude) to the spinto outcries of “Un bacio … un bacio ancora” in Verdi’s Otello.
A winning interpretation of Mendelssohn’s C-minor Piano Trio, a high point of the genre, included a memorable touch in the first movement; at the point where the music keens toward the relative major key of E-flat to announce the second theme, the players achieved nothing short of lift-off. The score alludes to such an idea, the dynamics increasing at that moment from forte to fortissimo, underscored by the marking marcato e con forza (emphatic and forcefully). But here the musicians amplified the passage through a carefully gradated crescendo and concomitant intensifying of energy in the bowing. It was electrifying, and when they did something similar at the corresponding point of the finale, it was nearly as thrilling. In between, they brought lyrical grace to the slow movement and cleanly articulated scurrying to the scherzo. A good deal of fun was had in the group’s encore, Canellakis’ arrangement of a Bulgarian folk dance of inscrutably complicated rhythm.
Each chamber group finds its own sweet spot. Sometimes the members approximate each other in their musical personality; sometimes the style of the individuals differs greatly. The Brown-UriosteCanellakis Trio seems more of the latter type, and it will take some time for this young ensemble to click into a magical balance of tone and temperament. They already demonstrate that they are committed and engaged in their enterprise. — James M. Keller
The Brown-Urioste-Canellakis Trio