Ensemble Music Series; Indiana History Center; Feb. 24.
"Heavenly length" is what is usually reserved to describe
Franz Schubert's "Great" C-Major Symphony, D. 944. But that term can readily be
applied to a large number of the Austrian Classical/Romantic composer's
prodigious instrumental output from the 1820s (he died in 1828 at age 31): each
of his final three "Posthumous" piano sonatas, his final String Quartet in G
(which, to my recollection, has never been played locally but should be), his
Cello Quintet in C, his F Major Octet for strings and winds, his Grand Duo in C
for piano/four hands (orchestrated by our own Raymond Leppard) — and
finally his two piano trios.
Each of these works lasts on either side of 45 minutes (and,
except for the Octet, have four movements); they are all properly considered
masterpieces in the mature Schubert's unique idiom.
Duo performers David Finckel, cellist, and Wu Han, pianist,
joined with violinist Philip Setzer (the latter from the Emerson String
Quartet) in offering Schubert's two piano trios this Wednesday. The first, Trio
in B-flat, D. 898 (1827), is the most immediately accessible of the two, filled
with tunes, jaunty and utterly lovely — overlaying a complex structure
filled with abrupt key shifts and repetitively rhythmic, left-hand piano
The succeeding Trio in E-flat, D. 929 (1827) brings its
complex structure more to the forefront while somewhat submerging its melodies,
of which, still, there are plenty. Most ear-catching is the march tune from the
second movement, shared throughout among the three instruments. It's then
reprised twice in the Finale, supported with bewitching piano chords skipping
down the keyboard. This movement, especially of "heavenly length," remains
That both trios fully engaged the large IHC Basile Theater
audience was quite evident. Our performers got standing ovations, at both the
break and the end. The Finckel – Han duo team are without question a
top-tiered twosome. Han's keyboard work — her phrasing, articulation and
dynamic control — were second to none in both these works. Finckel made
his cello a living, breathing instrument, with breathtaking tonal control and
an instinctive ensemble sense.
In fact, all three players conveyed a consummate knowledge
of these long, challengingly difficult works as they blended their parts
together—and made them "sing."