The Washington Post

You be the critic: Lembit Beecher’s new trio

A couple of days ago, I expressed regret that we weren’t able to review the world premiere of Lembit Beecher’s new piano trio on March 31, commissioned by the Southwest Chamber Players, in the Washington Post. Now, I’m offering something even better: a high-quality video of the piece itself.

Above: The world premiere performance of Lembit Beecher’s Piano Trio by the Southwest Chamber Players in Washington on Saturday, with Emily Daggett Smith on violin, Karen Ouzounian on cello, and the composer on piano. This concert film was created by H. Paul Moon, a local filmmaker who is currently creating a feature-length documentary about the American composer Samuel Barber. His Web site is at Thanks to David Ehrlich, founder of SWCP, for making it available.

Beecher, in his early 30s, got onto my radar when he beat out 169 other applicants to win the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s first composer-in-residence spot, a startlingly cushy three-year post that pays $70,000 a year to help steep a composer in every aspect of opera, before and behind the scenes. (Another composer-in-residence will be chosen this year; the two terms will overlap.)

But Beecher was already on a strong career track, with degrees from Harvard, Rice, and Michigan and a healthy young-composer range of grants, performances, and awards.

A documentary work Beecher wrote about his grandmother’s memories of World War II gives an idea of his narrative sense, and has also been captured on video (Vimeo is a gread thing for young composers — before they have to start tangling with superstar performers about rights issues.)

“I heard a storyteller in the music,” David Devan, the general director of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Inquirer when Beecher’s appointment was announced last September. “His musical vocabulary had a fresh sound to it I hadn’t heard before.”

So what do you hear? It’s rare, in an age of complex broadcast rights, to be able to experience a new work so soon after its premiere. And it may be every critic’s dream to be able to present a whole work, in its entirety, to listeners, rather than having to try to express it, inadequately, in words. I look forward to hearing what other people think.

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.



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