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Claremont Trio tackles Mozart, Shostakovich, Schubert at National Academy of Sciences

The Claremont Trio, in business since 1999, is a well-groomed, highly professional ensemble. While the trio is known for its careful preparation in the closely matched nuances and expert gear shifts, one wishes, at times, for more color and passion to break through. The trio’s recital Sunday at the National Academy of Sciences offered clean renderings of standards by Mozart, Shostakovich and Schubert.

In the Mozart K. 548, pianist Andrea Lam displayed a pleasing variety of touch, but the musicmaking as a whole was a little too self-conscious — we should stretch a little here, we should make this echo effect — without really invoking the human emotion that impels it. In lyrical passages, its violinist is afflicted with the delayed-vibrato virus, which is irritating in romantic music but fatal in Mozart. This affectation (or carelessness, I couldn’t say) marred the Schubert E-flat Trio almost as badly; the cellist did it much less, but still indulged now and then.

In the Shostakovich Trio, the grotesquerie was ironed out somewhat (particularly in the Scherzo), and the spots where the strings play together in harmonics were not perfectly in tune. But the trio’s familiarity with the complex terrain paid dividends in the many tempo changes and virtuoso passages, which came off brilliantly.

All these strengths and weaknesses were on display in the Schubert, but further hampered by the acoustics. The NAS hall conveys sound with clinical clarity but no resonance or blend whatsoever; the strings get soaked up like a sponge. While Lam is a sensitive player, and I’m sure the group does fine with the piano lid all the way up anywhere else, someone should have advised them during a sound check that the balances weren’t working at all. What one could hear of the strings during the Schubert was well timed and well matched, but the effect was that of a piano sonata with some background noise.

Battey is a freelance writer.

Claremont Trio. (Merri Cyr/Handout)
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