Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Four Folk Songs,” from 2012, renovates romanticism’s embrace of nationalistic styles on 21st-century lines, refining Peruvian sources into piquant aesthetic objects, whether a rhapsodic violin-and-cello aria over dissonant piano bells or a fraught serenade, the piano clanging, the strings strumming, the meter and the line between major and minor blurred. Even the aspirations felt modernized: As if suspicious of old nationalistic triumph, Frank ended each movement with a hesitant whisper.
The model for Helen Grime’s 2011 “Three Whistler Miniatures” was musical impressionism, in a highly chromatic dialect but still focused on color and atmosphere: watery burbles, sharp, jewel-like accents and high piano notes pinging out of harmonic fog. The most recent work, Kati Agócs’s 2017 “Queen of Hearts,” most eagerly looked back, a variation set echoing every variety of musical reinvention: neo-baroque, neoclassical, neo-romantic. The thoroughly tonal dramatics, diverting in the moment, didn’t quite have a strong enough profile to linger. (My 6-year-old companion put it thus: “I liked it, but I kind of forget what it sounded like.”) But it was an engaging vehicle for the trio’s collective personality.
Violinist Emily Bruskin, cellist Julia Bruskin and pianist Andrea Lam share a devotion to energy and brilliance. They are musically omnivorous — fluent in varying streams of standard and contemporary repertoire and diligently attentive to opportunities into which to sink their dramatic and virtuosic teeth. In that regard, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 11, was a feast. Mendelssohn was at least as formidable a pianist and composer as her brother Felix; her sure-footed and stormy 1847 Trio, one of her last works, feels like an impatient exit interview for the classical style. The performance tightened every screw, brawny and intensely lyrical by turn.
An encore, Astor Piazzolla’s “Primavera Porteña” (“Buenos Aires Spring”), clothed vigor and ardor in urbane fashion. But the players maintained their assiduous fire, plugged into the alternating current of past and present.