Trio Solisti headlines Dumbarton Concerts

April 4, 2011

by Robert Battey

Dumbarton Concerts, Georgetown’s excellent home-grown concert series, ended strong on Saturday evening with a performance by the appropriately named Trio Solisti: pianist Jon Klibonoff, violinist Maria Bachmann and cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach. All three have respectable mid-level solo careers, and they come together and present trio repertoire with that approach, stretching the boundaries, as it were.

This was smashingly successful in their arrangement of two movements of Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”: The keening solos, the smoky riffs and the pelvic-grinding feel of the music were brilliantly delivered. It was impossible not to enjoy; it’s music with no pretensions other than to give visceral pleasure, and the group’s theatricality fitted perfectly.

The same could not be said of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The point of most arrangements is either to bring forth a piece that might not otherwise be heard or to fill out a new medium’s repertoire with music of established quality. Neither criterion applies here, and mostly the listener notices what’s missing from the orchestra version or which doesn’t add anything particularly useful to the original solo piano version.

Trio Solisti’s arrangement didn’t “illuminate” anything that wasn’t already there — in the intimate moments the strings weren’t needed, and in the blockbuster spots they weren’t enough. I can’t imagine this product catching on with anyone else.

In the opening Dvorak Piano Trio No. 4 in E Minor (“Dumky”), the musicmaking was intense and usually enjoyable. Gerlach is perhaps a little too tightly wound to do full justice to the gentler passages, but all three meshed nicely when they had to. Klibonoff offered both power and sensitivity throughout.

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