Delicate understatement was the prevailing esthetic in last night's recital at the Wolf Trap Barns by the New York Camerata. Applying its sensitive musicianship to an interesting mix of Hummel, Shostakovich and Schubert, the ensemble presented the first chamber music evening in this new space, which is proving ideal for intimate performances.
Shostakovich's "Seven Romances for Soprano and Piano Trio," Op. 127, formed the expressive core of the program. As soprano Eleanor Clark noted in helpful comments to the audience, this set is a late work based on the dramatic poetry of the Russian symbolist writer Alexander Blok, who died in 1921. Blok's intense imagery inspired Shostakovich to create some of his most vivid music. With extremely economical means -- a single brief violin line, for example, conveys passion discovered, experienced and then recalled -- Shostakovich evokes powerful emotions. Joined by violinist Diane Bruce, cellist Mark Shuman and pianist Glenn Jacobson, Clark brought a clear, well-focused sound and considerable insight to the songs, even if her interpretation remained a bit cooler than desirable.
The Shostakovich was preceded by Hummel's engaging Trio for Piano, Flute and Cello, Op. 78. Jacobson and Shuman were joined by flutist Gary Schocker in a highly congenial partnership that caught the work's lighthearted spirit. Jacobson, Shuman and Bruce closed with Schubert's B Flat Trio, Op. 99. Somewhat less in agreement -- given the chance, Bruce would clearly have lavished a little more love on Schubert's melodies -- the group played with deft grace, though there were a few small stumbles and one large flub in the opening cello line of the second movement.