I’ve mentioned before that Ensemble Music has a knack for bringing in exceptional ensembles. Trio Eunoia is the latest example. The trio gave its inaugural concert at The Toby on March 19, performing works from 1909 to 1996.
The evening began with Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Wuorinen’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, (1983), a rhythmically frenetic, serial work. As if in a heated conversation, the trio tossed ideas and statements back and forth, and at times talked over each other, but never was any voice lost in the conversation. Despite the frenzy of the work, the group demonstrated cohesiveness normally attributed to groups that have been performing for a long time.
Toru Takemitsu’s Between Tides (1993) certainly has a wave-like feel with rhythms and phrases coming in and out like the tide. It was in stark contrast to the Wuorinen, and showed how comfortably and easy the group was able to shift gears. I particularly noticed violinist Owen Dalby’s rich, expressive playing.
Two players remained on stage for Igor Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne for Cello and Piano (1932). This work emerged from Stravinsky’s neoclassical phase, and before the concert, cellist Jay Campbell spoke to the audience about how it showed the connection between old and new music, which is an important concept to the group. Campbell is a thoroughly eloquent cellist with chops to spare. Conor Hanick is a sensitive, thoughtful pianist. Both display a musical maturity beyond their years.
Different from anything else on the program was Toshia Hosokawa’s Memory: In Memory of Isang Young (1996). The work begins quieter than any pianissimo I’d ever heard. I saw the violin and cello bow moving, but it was several seconds before sound reached the audience. Predominantly comprised of long tones punctured occasionally by the piano, this work was incredibly sorrowful (the piece is an elegy for Hokosawa’s composition instructor), uncomfortable and challenging. You didn’t know if there would be a resolution to the dissonance, the ponticello effects were piercing and the reluctant pace was trying.
Finishing off the evening was the brilliant Charles Ives’ Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1914-15). It was splendid. Ives piles keys and rhythms on top of each other, then throws in folk songs in the middle, and the technical proficiency needed for it is of the highest level. Not a problem for Trio Eunoia! Much like they dove in to the opening work, they relished the Ives with a fiery passion and precision.
The only part of the evening I didn’t like was at the post-concert talk, when members of the trio explained that yes, this was their inaugural performance, but possibly also their farewell concert.
They're all embarking on their own musical adventures. Dalby was recently appointed to the famous St Lawrence String Quartet, Hanick is performing at the Met Museum in honor of Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday along with many other recitals, and Campbell is premiering several new works while also working towards his Artist Diploma at The Juilliard School.
Let’s hope they all can collaborate again, sooner than later. Passionate and thoughtful performances like these help make the case for contemporary music.