KLR Trio closes chamber season with stylish Schubert

By David Fleshler

 Although they have played together since Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, the members of the Kalichstein Laredo Robinson Trio showed no trace of staleness in their performance Friday in Miami. After an intense account of the dark second movement of Schubert’s Trio in E flat, with its tragic climax, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson looked drained, wiped out. They still had two movements to go, and they played them with energy and breadth, but clearly one reason the celebrated trio has stayed on top for 32 years is the musicians’ refusal to mail in their performances, even in classics they must have played dozens of times.

 Their performance at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall, the final season offering of Friends of Chamber Music, consisted of Schubert’s two completed piano trios, Op. 99 and Op. 100, the first exuberant and sweet-toned, the second moodier and more introspective.

 The playing wasn’t perfect. Laredo ran into occasional bowing and intonation difficulties when the going got fast, but his confidence and clear mastery of the music allowed him to plow through any technical problems.

 In the outer movements the trio brought out the vast range of Schubert’s conceptions – at times symphonic, exultant, intimate, dramatic. But it was in each trio’s slow movement that they were at their best.

 With a chaste tone and a warmth that never become maudlin, Robinson played the singing melody that opens the Op. 99 Andante. Laredo entered with the same melody, not echoing her playing but building on it, playing with an increasing intensity in an interplay that carried through the movement.

 Not surprisingly for a composer whose life revolved around evenings with friends, Schubert composed his trios in the convivial spirit of chamber music, allowing each instrument – even the cello – many chances to shine. Both works cast Robinson’s singing tone to advantage, chaste and refined in Op. 99, rich and throaty in the more somber Op. 100.

 Although this may seem like damning with faint praise, Joseph Kalichstein showed himself to be the perfect chamber music pianist. His playing was technically impeccable, fluid and clear. He moved from foreground to background as the music required, taking center stage with an intensification of tone and clarity, rather than a major increase in volume, never allowing his instrument’s 500-pound advantage over the others to overwhelm them or lead him to fade to far into the background.

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Sat May 9, 2009
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