The San Francisco Trio gave an idiomatic, intense performance.
The theme for the 2012 season of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society is "Mixology," using imagery of various mixed drinks to describe their programs. The opening concert, Friday evening in Overture Center's Playhouse, was dubbed "White Russian." Don't worry about it.
The opening word was by a French composer of Russian background, Marcelle de Manziarly. Her four-movement Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano was composed in 1952. It is a fluent but somewhat unmemorable piece in a kind of gentle post-Ravel style, as full of solos and duo exchanges as of consistent trio texture.
At long last Stephanie Jutt and her partner in BDDS leadership, pianist Jeffrey Sykes, took the opportunity to join in one of the great masterpieces of modern flute music, Prokofiev's Sonata, Op. 94. It was originally written (1942-43) as a tribute to the distinguished French flautist, Georges Barrère, but it is also known in an alternate version for violin prepared in 1944 with David Oistrakh. The first of its four movements shares thematic material with the opening movement of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony, also composed in 1944.
This sonata is a highly taxing work, a brilliant display piece that includes a dazzling scherzo and a wild rondo-finale. Jutt was fully equal to its challenges, in a perfectly balanced performance with Sykes.
After the usual post-intermission proceedings, the concert proceeded to its blockbuster. I must say that many of the most memorable performances of chamber works I have ever heard have been at BDDS programs, and chief among them was Tchaikovsky's glorious string sextet, the Souvenir de Florence. To such a select treasury, this evening's closing selection added another extraordinary work by Tchaikovsky, who is seriously underestimated as a composer of great chamber music. This is his Trio in A minor, Op. 50, for Violin, Cello, and Piano.
It was composed in 1881-82 as a memorial tribute to Tchaikovsky's mentor and friend, the pianist and conductor Nikolai Rubinstein. One of the longest pieces of its type, it is cast in two movements. First, a long Pezzo elegaico, a fantasia on a theme of impassioned mourning. Then an extended set of variations on a more cheerful tune, put through an amazing range of paces and characters until a coda brings back the original elegaic theme. It is a work of impassioned grieving and tribute, and leaves the audience in awed silence at its quiet close.
This work was given a thoroughly idiomatic and intense performance by Sykes, with violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau. As it happens, these three are used to working with each other as the well-established San Francisco Trio, and their total confidence in each other showed through clearly.
This same program will be repeated at Taliesin's Hillside Theater in Spring Green on Sunday afternoon, June 17, at 2:30. And five other programs will carry the BDDS season through the weekends up to July 1. For information, call 608-255-9866 or visit the BDDS website.