by | Jun 26, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments


From the Miami International Piano Festival, 2003
Program: TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in A Minor, Op 50; RACHMANINOV: Piano Trio in G Minor “Trio Elegiaque”
Performers: Igor Gruppman, violin/ Mark Kosower, cello/ Ilya Itin, piano/ Adam Neiman, piano (Rachmaninov)
Studio: VAI DVD 4396
Video: 16:9 Color
Audio: PCM Stereo
Length: 58 minutes
Rating: ****

Taped at the Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 8 March 2003, this concert features four sympathetic artists in Romantic repertory of passionate temper. The camera work attempts to visualize the rapidly shifting, Herculean emotions of the Tchaikovsky, often superimposing all three players into one frame as Tchaikovsky piles up his motifs in stretto for the Pezzo Elegiaco. Most often, violinist Gruppman and cellist Kosower form the musical frame, then the camera cuts left of Itin’s keyboard virtuosity. Gruppman, a Heifetz pupil, phrases his music much as the Master had for his performance with Rubinstein and Piatagorsky two generations ago. Gruppman’s solo cadenza takes us to a melancholy recapitulation, the forward motion of the music almost static and detached in space. Then, the passion swell once more in dirge-like harmony with the cello and piano’s facile runs. Itin at fff is a force of nature, the music having become a funereal waltz and bolero in memory of Nicholas Rubinstein.

The second movement, a huge theme and variations, becomes a series of character pieces depicting a day in the life of Rubinstein’s persona.  Bucolic for the most part, the music suddenly bursts into a cosmopolitan waltz of grand fervor, the three principals‚ leaning into their parts with fluent homogeneity. The main theme rises up, then Itin breaks loose with a series of huge block chords on his pungent Steinway. At Variation 9, cellist Kosower has his moment, then a lovely duet with Gruppman, Itin has a suave mazurka with its own cadenza, much in the Chopin tradition. When the two string instrumentalists join, we have a village band, then a lyric song from Gruppman. When the somber theme of the first movement reappears to complete the cycle of life, we feel that an urgent and vital moment of ensemble has embraced us.

Rachmaninov composed his small, one-movement G Minor Trio in 1892. Its four-note melodic kernel has obvious ties to the Tchaikovsky Trio. The legato in each of the three parts, along with the one-movement structure, pay deep homage to Tchaikovsky in the younger composer’s own terms. Gruppman again leads the emotional sequences, while the camera looks to Neiman’s left hand. Some jerky camera movements break the lyrical mood of the music, but the instrumentalists’ rendering is so smooth, the minor visual lapse is swept away. The sonority of the piece is grand, a concerto for three solo instruments until the piano ushers in a light figure that Grieg might have penned. Neiman’s cadenza, a brief nocturne, is nicely phrased, nicely framed. At the end of the extended, concluding dirge, an unseen audience applauds music well-realized.

— Gary Lemco

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