Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 8
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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Chamber Players Present Delightful Afternoon of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven Trios

Nancy Plum

The Richardson Chamber Players presented its final concert of its Vienna: Baroque series on Sunday afternoon, focusing on music performed at the Imperial Court during the 17th century. This final concert, featuring pianist Jennifer Tao, violinist Sunghae Anna Lim, flutist Judith Pearce, and cellist Alberto Parrini, treated the audience in Richardson Auditorium to a trio each by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven, all composed within twenty years of one another but very different in style and texture.

Mozart wrote his Trio in E Major for Piano, Violin and Violoncello within three years of his death and in a period of apparent economic despair, but one would never know from the charm and charisma of the music. Ms. Tao began the first movement almost as a piano sonata, accompanied by very subtle cello. By the time Ms. Lim took over the melody on the violin it was clear that this was music to sit back and enjoy, as Ms. Tao, Ms. Lim, and Mr. Parrini knew exactly how to achieve the right texture for the piece. Ms. Tao played with a very light right hand, and Mr. Parrini in particular knew when to hold back and allow the other instruments to speak.

Of the four players in Sunday afternoon’s concert, Mr. Parrini was the newcomer to the ensemble. Principal Cellist of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Mr. Parrini moves easily back and forth between chamber music and full orchestral ensembles. With the Richardson Chamber Players, he demonstrated remarkable reserve, allowing his instrument to take more of a solo role as each piece demonstrated a more significant role for the cello historically.

Ms. Lim played the Mozart work with very elegant stresses within the melodic line and a grand flourish to close the work, maintaining with Mr. Parrini an innate sense of balance between the strings and piano. In the third movement, Ms. Tao played the sonata-like music with hands very close together, and even runs; her playing was perfectly timed with the strings.

The concert seemed to move musicologically through the twenty years between 1788 and 1808, and Haydn’s Trio in G Major for Piano, Flute, and Violoncello demonstrated an interesting combination of instruments. This three-movement work was just as charming as the Mozart, with a bit more drama. Ms. Tao’s very fluid right hand playing marked the first movement, and musical leadership moved back and forth between Ms. Tao and flutist Ms. Pearce. The second movement included a harmonic element of surprise which one comes to expect from Haydn, and one which was well handled by the ensemble, and the dotted-rhythm theme added drama to the movement. Haydn’s phrases are a bit longer than Mozart’s, and Ms. Tao, Ms. Pearce, and Mr. Parrini moved through the crescendos together well.

Beethoven’s Trio in D Major for Piano, Violin, and Violoncello was the latest work on the program, composed in 1808 and one of Beethoven’s earliest published works. The three-movement trio began with unison fire leading to melodic passages in the cello and violin. The drama in this work enabled the instruments to show much more blend than in the previous pieces, with a very rich sound. There was a great deal of unison between the violin and cello, with Mr. Parrini maintaining a classical flavor. There were also many false cadences in this trio, and both violin and cello were consistently playing together exactly with the piano.

The second movement was a study in intensity between the violin and cello. Mr. Parrini played with a rich yet somewhat dry sound, without a great deal of vibrato. Ms. Lim played with increasing warmth as the melody unfolded and precisely played Beethoven’s well-thought out pizzicato toward the end of the movement. As could be expected from Beethoven, the third movement was heavy on the piano, with a very improvisatory style, and the ensemble arrived at cadences together with a great deal of pull in the melodic lines. This trio is not as complex as Beethoven’s later chamber works, but there was nonetheless much variety in the work which the three instrumentalists were well able to find.

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