Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 26
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
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The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio Concert Energizes Audience With Beethoven’s Music

Nancy Plum

Part of the fun of attending the concerts of the Princeton University Summer Concerts Series is seeing how much of the audience seems to have dropped whatever they were doing to attend the performance. People come in all types of dress and in a wide range of ages — well-dressed with children in tow to perhaps just having left their gardening. Clearly no matter what the daytime activities, there is always time for chamber music. The new season of the Princeton Summer Concerts Series kicked off last Tuesday night in Richardson auditorium with a polished trio making their way through the complete piano trio works of the master of chamber music.

The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio presented three works of Beethoven as part of the Trio’s own foray through the complete repertory of the composer’s works for piano trio. Beethoven is renowned for revolutionizing the string quartet, but his piano trios are no less delightful and challenging. Pianist Yael Weiss, violinist Mark Kaplan, and cellist Clancy Newman brought solid technique, communication, and intensity to mesmerize the full house at Richardson.

Beethoven’s Kakadu Variations in G Major were based on a tune from a late 18th century Viennese Singspiel, treated to the composer’s ingenious treatment for piano, violin, and cello. The piece deceptively began in G minor, and the players demonstrated effective communication and interaction from the outset. Pianist Weiss listened intently to her colleagues as clean pizzicato from Mr. Newman brought the extended introduction to rest in a major key and set up the main tune. Mr. Kaplan’s very sweet sound on the violin was well complemented by Ms. Weiss’s deliberate trills and even 8th notes. Sforzandi occurred simultaneously among all instruments and Ms. Weiss and Mr. Newman brought out the humor of the piece through light touch and a ringing very high register of the keyboard.

At the time Beethoven composed his set of two piano trios known as Opus 70, he was also contemplating an opera based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The opera never materialized, but Beethoven carried the “ghost” theme of Macbeth to the Trio in D Major, Opus 70, #1, subtitled by Beethoven student Carl Czerny as the Ghost Trio. The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio started off their performance of this three-movement work with perfectly tuned playing in the opening allegro, marked by Ms. Weiss’s continued light touch on the piano and dynamic contrasts from all three players. The ethereal largo movement began with unison string playing while the piano had the tune. The musicians made much of dynamic variety and contrast, finding musical drama through a shimmering piano part and intensely focused strings. The third movement in particular was full of harmonic surprises well brought out by the musicians.

The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio continued its journey through Beethoven’s Opus 70 with a chipper performance of the second Trio in Eb Major. Other than a poco sostenuto introduction to the first movement, there was little slow music in this piece, and the trio of musicians kept the interplay lively with sequential effects and harmonic criss-crossing among instruments. The players held the suspense of the music until the last possible moment, and endings of sections were very well timed and exact.

The piano trios of Beethoven continued the elegant texture begun by Mozart, and expanded the genre with additional movements and harmonic innovation. The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio is presenting all the piano trios of Beethoven this summer, with the first concert in Princeton and the remainder at the University of Indiana. It is unfortunate these two venues are so far apart — the audience that received a taste of this cycle on Tuesday night would surely love to hear more.

The Princeton University Summer Concerts Series continues on Wednesday, July 6 with the Dolce Suono Trio. The performance is free, but tickets are required, and can be obtained at Richardson Auditorium after 6:30 on the night of the concert.

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