During his tenure as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach has overseen the appointment of eight principal musicians.
The changes are audible not only in performances by the NSO, but also in the recitals by the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, drawn from the NSO membership.
The group’s first concert of the season, on Sunday afternoon, offered a chance to hear the outstanding new principal horn player, Abel Pereira.
First on the program were two Beethoven trios, composed in the 1790s. In the Piano Trio in G, Op. 1/2, pianist Lambert Orkis bore the brunt of the heavy lifting with panache, especially in the cartoonish escapades of the madcap finale. Cellist David Hardy and violinist Marissa Regni were beautifully balanced against him, providing expressive, nuanced playing in the gorgeous slow movement. The strings had more to do in the String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9/3, the last example of the genre to come from Beethoven’s pen. With the musical weight distributed evenly with violist Daniel Foster, the three musicians gave the impression of playing a house concert, so Regni never had to force her sound to be heard.
The highlight of the program, though, was the “Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano” by Johannes Brahms, which Pereira chose to play on the modern valved horn rather than the natural horn favored by the composer. As he did in an organ and brass program with William Neil last week, Pereira was in top form in this rarely heard piece, with a consistently elegiac tone, unwavering breath support and power when needed.
Written just after the death of the composer’s mother, the piece has a forlorn trio in its otherwise adventure-seeking Scherzo, as well as one of the most tragic Brahms slow movements. The dimming of the stage lights at that point was, one presumes, an eerie coincidence.
Downey is a freelance writer.