Listening to Eduard Steuermann’s piano trio arrangement of Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” (the “Transfigured Night” of the concert’s name), originally written for a string sextet and often performed by chamber orchestras, one could not, at first, help but hear musical diminishment. But what may have been lost in textural richness was made up for by sheer expressive intensity. It was, at times, a frighteningly intimate dialogue, with Khachatryan’s and Weilerstein’s passionate lyrical lines exposed like raw nerves. The result was a beautifully wrenching and emotionally draining musical journey.
A transcription of Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony for piano trio and percussion revealed another musical trade-off. This version, arranged by Viktor Derevianko, was not the potent transformation the Schoenberg was: Shostakovich’s symphonic sprawl sounded meandering and diffuse on a reduced scale.
Yet the performance offered a riveting study of musical color, with the trio — joined by percussionists Colin Currie, Douglas Perkins and Michael Werner — evoking the multitude of Shostakovich’s moods, by turns droll, abrasive, anguished and enigmatic, with remarkable technical resourcefulness.
Currie took a solo turn in a work that bore a tenuous relationship to the evening’s overall theme: “Realismos Mágicos” by Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin. Inspired by the titles — but not, it seems, the actual plots — of 11 stories by Gabriel García Márquez, these telegraphic pieces for marimba provided Currie with a technical showcase, but felt superfluous in context.
Ironically, the work that offered the most musical satisfaction was the only one wholly in its original form: Beethoven’s “Ghost” trio. Impeccably balanced and intensely communicative, this reading captured Khachatryan, Weilerstein and Barnatan at the height of their powers, balancing freedom with attention to musical structure. It was joyous musicmaking — crisp, tender, haunted and lyrical — that showcased the intuitive rapport of three musicians at home on the stage.