Poulenc Trio brings urbane mix to National Gallery of Art


Poulenc Trio. (National Gallery of Art)
March 24, 2014

The Poulenc Trio takes its name from a composer who actually wrote a piece for their unusual combination of instruments: oboe, bassoon and piano. Most of their other repertoire is arrangements of music for other combinations, and they brought an urbane mix of such pieces for their concert at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday evening.

A trio sonata by Handel more traditionally would have two treble instruments on the upper parts and the bassoon or another bass instrument doubling the continuo, but talented bassoonist Bryan Young’s light and agile approach to the second treble part made it work. Oboist Vladimir Lande had a consistently beautiful sound in Glinka’s “Trio Pathétique,” originally for clarinet, cello and piano, while pianist Irina Kaplan, generally content to be more in the background, gave a gossamer touch to the many decorative roulades in the keyboard part. The most recent piece was “Horizon Lines,” with mostly anodyne music and artwork by Laura Kaminsky and Rebecca Allan, respectively, featuring meandering soliloquies for the three instruments, plus a more active third movement, all reflecting various landscapes that have inspired both artists.

High points included the coy neoclassicism of Schnittke’s “Suite in the Old Style,” originally for violin and piano, especially its film score-like “Pantomima,” and “A Spin through Moscow,” Shostakovich’s chipper Galop from “Moscow Cheryomushki,” in an arrangement by Anatoliy Trofimov. The echoing acoustic of the West Garden Court played havoc with the ensemble unity at times, as tempos did not quite align, especially between the two wind instruments, and Stefan Frankel’s arrangement of themes from Weill’s “Threepenny Opera,” the only piece featuring promising young violinist Anton Lande, felt like an unnecessary addendum.

Downey is a freelance writer.

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