Dvorak's Quartet, Op. 87, for piano and strings is steeped in folk music, but the tunes are his own and the workmanship is sophisticated. His mature compositions have roughly the same relation to folk songs as a wood sculpture has to a tree.
An idiomatic Dvorak performance, however, must reflect both his bluff peasant spirit and the subtlety of his talent, and the balance is difficult to get.
The Cezanne Trio, with violist Osman Kivrak, got most of it right in concert at the Czech Embassy Tuesday night. Theirs was a hearty, energetic performance with genuine ebb and flow and natural musicality.
Two brief contemporary works by Czech composers opened the program. Ivana Loudova's Piano Trio in B-flat is a memorial to Lili Boulanger that uses acoustic reverberations and spare modal progressions to build slowly to an intense conclusion. Along the way its dirgelike ruminations and absence of discernible meter made for shadowy listening, but the piece slams home at the end, and it is unquestionably committed and heartfelt.
Ladislav Kubik's Trio commemorates the death of Federico Garcia Lorca in the Spanish Civil War. Hearing it immediately after the Loudova threnody gave this listener the sense of one death too many, and it seemed a patchwork of disparate meanderings and effects--a tone cluster here, a frozen texture there, but without much connection or center.