July 6, 2016

Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts Brings Refreshing Trio to Princeton

In musical performance, the term “trio” refers to any combination of three instruments, often two stringed instruments and a keyboard. Prima Trio, which performed last Tuesday night on the Princeton Summer Chamber Concerts series, has put their own twist on this tradition by combining piano and clarinet with either violin or viola. Gulia Gurevich has expanded the range of Prima Trio by playing both violin and viola, joining clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan and pianist Anastasia Dedik. Each of these players comes from a unique part of the world, and brought their multicultural backgrounds and solid training to Richardson Auditorium for last Tuesday night’s performance. The members of Prima Trio honed their craft at Oberlin Conservatory and through 12 years of playing together and touring, their performance moved from traditional to contemporary, with much of the program drawn from the 20th century.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Trio for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano in E-flat was the first work composed for this combination of instruments, and Prima Trio brought out all the grace and elegance one would expect from Mozart. From the outset, pianist Ms. Dedik was very clear, playing trademark melodic figures cleanly. The Trio found the drama in the work, always with clarity, and sonorities between the viola and clarinet were particularly sweet in the third movement.

Prima Trio moved through the concert chronologically, with several of the pieces connected to the players’ backgrounds. Mr. Allakhverdyan was born in Azerbaijan, Ms. Gurevich a native of Uzbekistan, and Ms. Dedik was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick’s The Klezmer’s Wedding conveyed a cultural flavor of all three of these regions, as Mr. Allakhverdyan brought the “wild klezmer dance” to life with sliding notes on the clarinet. Ms. Gurevich echoed the gypsy flavor on the violin, as the piano kept the rhythm moving amidst the swirling instruments.

Prima Trio paid tribute to the homelands of Ms. Gurevich and Ms. Dedik with Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, who at one time lived in St. Petersburg. The “dolore” mood of the first movement was set right away by the piano, and Mr. Allakhverdyan provided a mournful melody on the clarinet. One could hear a bit of Debussy in the piano accompaniment, as Ms. Gurevich played the rich violin part with Romantic vibrato. Crisp rhythms and a saucy tune in the clarinet marked a second movement in which the ensemble sound was tight, and the Uzbekistan folktune incorporated into the third movement was played pensively, perhaps reflecting the ensemble’s memory that this was the first piece Prima Trio ever played together at Oberlin.

Prima Trio switched gears for the music of Astor Piazzolla, a 20th-century Argentine composer most recognized for revolutionizing the traditional Argentine tango through his symphonic music. Otoño Porteño brought a bit of tango to the stage, with recitative passages for the clarinet and elegant duets between violin and piano.

Prima Trio closed the concert with a piece from a composer more well known for his humorous works. Peter Schickele is renowned for his musical alter ego, P.D.Q. Bach, composer of such works as Oedipus Tex and Concerto for Horn and Hardart. However, Schickele is also a serious composer, and Serenade for Three, commissioned by the Michigan-based Verdehr Trio, contained classical and traditional musical idioms, with American jazz, blues, and bluegrass effects.

From the first note, it was clear that Ms. Dedik had complete control over the keyboard, with a teasing dialog between the right-hand of the piano and Ms. Gurevich’s violin. A broad and spacious texture could be heard in the second movement, as a raindrop-like piano accompaniment complemented a melody from the clarinet and violin. True Schickele fashion was evident in the rollicking third movement, with fiddling from the violin and boogie-woogie patterns in the piano. Musical humor aside, this was a difficult piece, and Prima Trio had things well in hand, closing a solid and appealing musical evening.