Paris Piano Trio shines in Brahms and Rachmaninoff

By David Fleshler

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Late in life Johannes Brahms developed an affection for the clarinet, producing several chamber works built around the wind instrument’s capacity for melancholy lyricism.

The well-known Israeli-American clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein joined members of the Paris Piano Trio at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall Wednesday for a performance of Brahms’ Trio in A Minor that fully returned the composer’s compliment.

The Paris Piano Trio consists of violinist Régis Pasquier, cellist Roland Pidoux and pianist Jean-Claude Pennetier, who have played together since they were students at the Paris Conservatory. Now in middle age, they are all professors at the conservatory, but they still play together with the assurance and brio that comes from trusting your collaborators to keep up.

the Paris Piano Trio

The concert, part of the Friends of Chamber Music of Miami series, opened with the trio alone playing Haydn’s Trio No. 32 in A Major. This was the least successful work on the program, performed in an overly serious, earthbound manner that seemed to miss the work’s high spirits. Only in the syncopated rhythms of the last movement, which tripped along at breakneck speed, did the performance take off.

Alexander Fiterstein

Alexander Fiterstein

But in the Brahms trio, the cellist and pianist, joined by Fiterstein on the clarinet, produced a richly textured, poignantly phrased performance. Fiterstein played with a velvety tone and a feeling for the long, swelling melodic line that revealed the uniquely expressive capacity of an instrument powered by human breath. Although Fiterstein is not a member of the ensemble, he fit in with them as if they had been playing together for years, as in the second movement, where he plays an extended duet with cellist Roland Pidoux. Pianist Pennetier’s playing achieved an idiomatic sweep and grandeur suited to the music.

In the second half, they played Rachmaninoff’s rarely heard Trio No. 2 in D Minor, in a full-throated performance that brought out the work’s nervous energy and violent mood swings. Predictably Rachmaninoff did not give the pianist an easy time of it, and Pennetier rose to the challenge with a bravura performance of a piano part that was reminiscent of the composer’s concertos. Cellist Pidoux brought a warm, penetrating tone to the first movement’s sultry melodies. And although violinist Pasquier’s tone turned warbly a few times, he hit climactic notes high on the E string dead on, in an edgy performance that brought out the fire of the  last movement.

The performance took place before an appreciative audience that appeared happy just to be there, having had to scrounge for parking spots on a campus packed with basketball fans who had shown up to see the UM Hurricanes lose to the Duke Blue Devils.

Posted in Performances

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Thu Feb 18, 2010
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