One might think that encountering the Mendelssohn D Minor Trio and the Beethoven "Archduke" on the same program would be almost too much of a good thing, but, if this thought did occur to the artists of the Kalichstein, Laredo, Robinson Trio, it did not deter them last night at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. Back to back, with just an intermission between them, the two giants of the trio repertoire were, in fact, well matched, and if they offered little contrast, they certainly provided a congenial context for each other.
Just as chamber ensembles tend to develop personalities, they also tend to develop quirks, and this one is no exception. Their personality is an emotional one. Their playing is full-bodied and more attuned to the dramatic than to the lyrical. Along the way, however, led by pianist Joseph Kalichstein, the ensemble has drifted into a habit of incessant rubatos. Kalichstein delays almost every down beat and molds the movement within each measure like so much soft clay, and violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson follow, albeit to a lesser degree. It is too much and it overlaid both the Mendelssohn and the Beethoven with a sort of Strauss waltz effect that was, at times, extremely uncomfortable.
The program began with nice readings of a delightful Beethoven Trio movement and an uneven but interesting trio written by Leon Kirchner 30 years ago.