The dumka (plural dumky) is a Slavonic musical form that alternates between deep, dark pensiveness and wild, abandoned gaiety -- manic-depressive music in its most concentrated form. "Dumky" is also the nickname of a Dvorak piano trio, whose half-dozen movements plunge the listener into one dumka after another. Hearing it can be a little bit like jumping back and forth between an ice-cold shower and a sauna. But when it is played as powerfully as it was Friday night at Montgomery College in Rockville, the effect can be intensely exhilarating.
The performance, under the auspices of the Washington Chamber Society, was given by violinist George Marsh, pianist Brian Ganz and guest cellist Evelyn Elsing -- an ad hoc piano trio, but one that sounded, in this music, equal to the world-famous Beaux Arts Trio. The interpretation was particularly notable for elegance of phrasing and for the closeness of coordination among the musicians, but they also generated an epic frenzy in some of the fast passages.
The "Dumky" Trio highlighted a rather adventurous program that had no weaknesses. Oboist Rudolph Vrbsky played beautifully in Mozart's Quartet for Oboe and Strings, K. 370, and Dutilleux's well-made, if rather unimpassioned, Sonata for Oboe and Piano. But the work with the most impact, after the Dvorak, was by another Central European composer: Bohuslav Martinu's strange and wonderful Duo for Violin and Cello. This is a wryly lyrical work, spare textured and sometimes angular in its melodies, but fully in touch with the romantic tradition. Elsing and Marsh gave a brilliant performance.
The program will be repeated Jan. 23 at the French Embassy.