Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sound and fury on opening night

A fabulous start to Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, a stunning performance by the Naumburg competition-winning Trio Cavatina at the Carriage House that was a treat for eyes and ears.  The trio — pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute, violinist Harumi Rhodes and cellist Priscilla Lee — pounced on the program, bringing a real physicality, a fiery, visual intensity not often found this side of tell Tchaikovsky the news, balancing a rock attitude, a muscular musical attack with dead-on technical skills and a subtle emotional heat that made for a mesmerizing performance and an exhilarating opening night.

Held at the Carriage House, a renovated 1850 barn with a listening room designed with chamber music acoustics in mind, the concert opened with an emotional roller-coaster ride of Beethoven's Piano Trio No. 5 in D Major, Opus 70, the so-called "Ghost Trio," and closed with NCMF artistic director David Yang joining the Trio for a stirring performance of Brahms' Piano Quartet in C Minor, Opus 60, which was inspired by his unrequited love for Clara Schumann, his mentor's wife. But the centerpiece of the performance was "The Faces of Guernica," written for Cavatino by red-hot composer Richard Danielpour after after the trio won Naumburg. The piece, which the Trio premiered at Carnegie Hall last May, was inspired by the famous Picasso work that was painted in response to the bombing of the Basque city of the same name by German and Italian warplanes during at the Spanish Civil War, a complex painting illustrating the human cost of war. It's a challenging piece, both musically and intellectually, a confluence of horrors and emotions, with six movements based on different sections of the painting, with names like "The Helpless Witness," "Woman in Flames" and "The Mad Horse and the Trampled Man." The performance was riveting, the piece deserves repeated hearings. There is so much to absorb.

Next up, music historian and theorist Charles Speicher hosts a panel discussion with NCMF artists-in-residence and discusses the 2010 NCMF program, with the musicians providing a sneak preview of the music. Returning artists include Yang, a violist who has forged a career that is a blend of performing, commissioning, coaching, storytelling and composition; David Ehrlich, former first violin of the Audubon Quartet; and cellist Caroline Stinson of the Lark Quartet. They will be joined by violinist Adela Pena, founding member of the legendary Eroica Trio and two-time Grammy nominee. The free program runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8 at the Customs House Museum. The first performance by the Festival Quartet will be a free outside show, weather permitting, at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 on Inn Street.  For a complete schedule, check out the NCMF web.

ABOUT THE PICTURE: Ieva Jokubaviciute 
of Trio Cavatina introduces "The Faces of Guernica," to open Newburyport Chamber Music Festival on Aug. 6. In the foreground are violinist Harumi Rhodes and cellist Priscilla Lee. Photo by Mark Davis.

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