The University of Maryland School of Music presented a free concert on Saturday evening in the Smith Center's Gildenhorn Recital Hall featuring faculty members in a program of romantic-era piano trios.
Violinist David Salness, cellist Evelyn Elsing and pianist Rita Sloan collaborated most successfully on Schumann's Trio in D Minor, Op. 63. Its second movement in particular, with the humorous galloping rhythms, brought out the group's most animated and theatrical playing of the program. The players often made eye contact to end phrases perfectly in sync, with just the right amount of nuance and character. They connected emotionally with the somber and despondent third movement and sped off triumphantly in the finale.
Unlike its driven, holistic account of the Schumann, the trio conceived Brahms's Trio in C Minor, Op. 101, as a work fragmented into numerous episodes.
Each section was encapsulated in a solitary bubble, then linked together into a larger unit, like charms on a bracelet. The third movement was the most cohesively played, with the musicians tracing the tender melodies along a natural arc as opera singers would phrase a love duet. Rippling pizzicati in the strings complemented the autumnal quality of the piano in the second movement, while the quiet droplets of notes in the piano garnished the thematic material of the strings in the fourth movement.
Shulamit Ran's introspective "Soliloquy," written in 1997, served as a link between the two 19th-century trios. Atmospheric, anguished, even nefarious, the piece twinned modern sound effects with haunting melodies from romanticism.
-- Grace Jean