Haydn Trio Offers Beethoven And Mozart but No Haydn

The Haydn Trio Eisenstadt's recital included the U.S. premieres of two American works.
The Haydn Trio Eisenstadt's recital included the U.S. premieres of two American works. (From Haydn Trio Eisenstadt)
Friday, May 19, 2006

The Haydn Trio Eisenstadt is renowned for its performances of (surprise!) Joseph Haydn, and it would have been a treat to hear some at the trio's recital Wednesday at the Embassy of Austria. But the program was full of other pleasures, not the least of which were the U.S. premieres of two thought-provoking new works by American composers.

Mozart was on the program, of course, (it's apparently illegal this year not to include him in every recital) and the ensemble opened with his Piano Trio in B flat, K. 502. It's a gracious piece, light and easily digestible, and the Haydn Trio gave it a smart and civilized reading. Too civilized, perhaps. In this (and the Beethoven Trio in E flat that came later) everything was buttoned down so tightly that no pulse could race and no sweat could bead upon the brow.

Violinist Verena Stourzh brought smarts and testosterone to the playing, but Hannes Gradwohl's cello-playing often felt bloodless, and pianist Harald Kosik took a drown-them-in-legato approach that drenched everything in a shimmering sameness.

Things got more interesting in the two new pieces. Jeffrey Mumford's "in the community of encompassing hours" is a dark work full of edgy dissonances and slow, lush shifts of tonal color -- involving, the composer explains in the program notes, "elongations of motives earlier introduced as faster-moving entities." While everybody loves a good entity, the piece ultimately came off as ponderous and not a little forlorn. But the ideas flew faster and more furiously in David Froom's Piano Trio No. 2, "Grenzen" (Borders). The piece is a delight -- intellectually engaging, explosive with imagination and with a satisfying visceral power.

-- Stephen Brookes

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