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CHAMBER REVIEW
Redwood Arts Council / Saturday, April 29, 2017
Hermitage Piano Trio. Ilya Kazantsev, piano; Sergey Antonov, cello; Misch Keilen, violin

NOTES AND BARS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE

by Nicki Bell
Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Hermitage Piano Trio brought exuberant musicality and sumptuous sound to a packed house April 29 in Occidental's Performing Arts Center for the last concert in the Redwood Arts Council’s 37th season. With a wide interpretive range--from lush to delicate to passionate--these three young Russian virtuosos set the house on fire while tickling the audience to the tips of its toes. Now living in the United States, Misha Keylin (violin), Sergey Antonov (cello) and pianist Ilya Kazantsev are all noted soloists in their own right, and inspired interpreters of classic European repertoire, as well as contemporary American commissions.

The opener, Beethoven's Op. 11 piano trio, was full of character and color. Before playing the work, Mr. Keylin shared the story of the third movement, which is based on the then-popular song, "Before I start work, I must have something to eat!" Mr. Kazantsev created magic during the first movement, infusing a gentle breathing pulse that contrasted with the movement's quick and light playfulness. Mr. Antonov's luscious cello tone in the beginning of the second movement was intimate and warm, a love song, like a rose opening. All three musicians wove lyrical motifs around each other during the movement, leading to an ethereal ending. The third movement was skipping and full of fun, with a piano cadenza, a violin and cello due, and multiple variations.

Schubert's Nocturne in E flat, published after his death and seldom heard in concert, was composed as a possible adagio for his well-known Op. 99 piano trio. The song-like theme, with its unusual rhythmic character and Romantic outpouring, was quintessential Schubert: sad, sweet, innocent and ecstatic.

The final trio before intermission was by Gaspar Casssado, a Catalonian cellist who died 50 years ago. The trio was a Spanish hoe-down with constantly changing tempi, and the three movements had significant variations in mood and dynamics. One could see flamenco dancers, their stomping heels, their sinuous poses. It was passionate, then suddenly very light, always rhythmic and then a race to the end.

After intermission came an unusual musical treat, Tchaikovsky's “The Seasons.” These twelve pieces were originally written for the piano and were published in a Russian music magazine at the rate of one per month. They were subsequently arranged for piano trio by the Russian composer Alexander Goedike. This festive celebration of the year turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser. The blending timbres of the three instruments brought out a new clarity in the music, and moments from “The Nutcracker” echoed throughout. Festive and joyous, lyrical and calm, jaunty and bright, melancholy and celebratory, trolls to swans--all the moods of the year were there.

The audience did not want the evening to end. The trio’s encore, "Let's Play an Opera by Rossini" (1981), was composed by Rion Shchedrin, husband of the great Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. It was a complete charmer, and the audience was giggling throughout.

Sonia Tubridy, who turned pages for pianist Ilya Kazantsev, contributed to this review.