Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review: Klemperer Trio

April 12, University of Richmond

In the 18th and 19th centuries, chamber music was played among relatives and friends, to entertain other relatives and friends,
or for the musicians’ own enjoyment.

That was very much the vibe of a concert
by the Klemperer Trio
– violinist Erika Klemperer, cellist Ronald Crutcher and pianist Gordon Back – at the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center.

Klemperer and Back have been married for 37 years. Klemperer and Crutcher have known each other since early teen-age. The three musicians have performed together, on and off, since 1980.

This reunion took place near the end of Crutcher’s second year as UR’s president. He circulated in the lobby greeting guests before the performance, while his wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, did the same as people made their way to seats in Camp Concert Hall.

The trio’s program was composed of old friends: Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor, Op. 49; Shostakovich’s Trio in C minor, Op. 8; and Anton Arensky’s Trio in D minor, Op. 32 – all staples of the piano-trio repertory, and audibly the subjects of musical discourse among these artists for some time.

So, the violinist and cellist knew when and how to give the pianist space to project his glittering runs in the Mendelssohn, and the violinist and pianist naturally deferred to the cellist in setting the tone of the Arensky, especially in its elegiac adagio.

The choice of two Russian-romantic works – Shostakovich’s Op. 8 is an early composition, looking back as much as forward stylistically – was wise programming, because Crutcher’s cello has a Slavic accent in its unusually dark, throaty timbre. He exploited that quality to fine effect in the Arensky and Shostakovich, and Klemperer darkened her tone nicely to match.

The threesome’s reading of the Mendelssohn was on the cautious side in tempos and accents, but nicely detailed, often affectionate in its instrumental exchanges.