Ehnes, Diaz and Lisitsa team up for unified chamber program

By David Fleshler

Violinisy James Ehnes

James Ehnes

Throw together three first-rate musicians for a chamber music concert and you never can predict what you’ll get. Will their sounds mesh? Will they go their own way in style and interpretation?

At the Friends of Chamber Music concert Tuesday in Coral Gables, the results were almost entirely successful, as violinist James Ehnes, cellist Andres Diaz and pianist Valentina Lisitsa gathered for an evening of Ravel, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. The performance at Gusman Hall was something of a musical variety show, with Ehnes and Diaz up first in Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, then Lisitsa taking the stage for a solo turn in Rachmaninoff’s Moments Musicaux and all three coming together in the second half for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor.

Andres Diaz

Andres Diaz

These musicians all have their own careers, and no one expected them to perform with the tight, single-organism unity of the established ¬†ensembles that tour the world playing the same well-rehearsed repertoire. But from the opening of the Ravel, it was clear that Ehnes and Diaz had a strong musical rapport — or at least had rehearsed thoroughly enough to come together on any disagreements. In the lyric passages of the first movement, they were as in sync as if they were playing a single instrument, and as the work turned savage and percussive in the second movement, they did so with the same degree of brutal energy.

Last summer on a Friends of Chamber Music program, Lisitsa performed Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata in a manner that was bit too free and episodic, burying the Classical elements of Beethoven’s musical thought under a blanket of rubato. But Tuesday in Rachmaninoff’s Moments Musicaux, Op. 16, she was entirely in her element. In this set of six contrasting piano pieces, her improvisatory style created a surging, restless performance that brought out the moody brilliance of the work.

Valentina Lisitsa

Valentina Lisitsa

Technically her performance was virtually flawless, and almost as important, seemed effortless. With a smooth tone, she shaped the rapid-fire notes with apparent ease. As the final piece reached a climax, she drew a grand, orchestral sound from the piano without a trace of pounding or banging.

In piano trios, there’s a tendency for the violin to sound tinny against the deep voice of the cello and the harmonic resources of the piano. But Ehnes has such a rich, warm tone that he easily held his own in the Tchaikovsky trio. ¬†Lisitsa played with a bit less assurance than in the Rachmaninoff, dropping some notes in Tchaikovsky’s runs up and down the keyboard. But in general, it was a tight, energetic performance, with particularly fine work in the minor-key variation of the second movement, with Diaz playing a detailed filigree around the soaring tones of Ehnes’ violin, and the dramatic, thundering climax of the last movement.

Posted in Performances

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Wed Jan 6, 2010
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