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[whitespace] The Eroica Trio
Sensitivity Training: The members of the Eroica Trio defer to one another as the music's focal point moves among them.

Focused Intensity

The Eroica Trio provided a lesson in taming the musical ego at Villa Montalvo

By Scott MacClelland

HUMOR WRITER Dave Barry reminds us guys to never, "under any circumstances," tell a woman she looks pregnant, unless we see the baby "coming out." Therefore, I will say nothing about two members of the Eroica Trio who are "due" within the next two months and who wore close-fitting "couture" (designed by Carmen Marc Valvo, according to the program handout) during their concert last Wednesday at Villa Montalvo. All I can say is that (en profile) violinist Adela Peña and pianist Erika Nickrenz looked particularly curvaceous and seemed to glow.

With cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio, they glowed together in a program of J.S. Bach, Astor Piazzolla and Antonin Dvorák. After the eye got used to being seduced, the ear gained increasing pleasure at the sensitive interplay among these three dedicated musicians.

The big piece on the fairly short program was Dvorák's Trio in F Minor of 1883. The composer was in his early 40s and midway between his sixth and seventh symphonies. Brahms had lately recommended him, and his career was beginning to attract international attention. The influence of Brahms is evident in this piece, which effectively combines formal clarity, Bohemian-flavored tunes and rhythms and passionate utterance.

Individually handsome melodies continually emerged from Eroica's three members and, accordingly, took flight. A particular distinction of the Eroica Trio is the sensitivity they show one another as the music's focal point moves among them, a deference more headstrong egos struggle to extend. (This level of communication undoubtedly stems from their close friendship, which began in childhood.) Indeed, Eroica's members anticipate each solo and gather purposefully in support of whoever gets it next.

SUCH WAS especially the case in the Dvorák, where rhythms charged, tunes ran rampant and expression came across with focused intensity. One might have wanted a deeper sense of Bohemian style--Brahms was as much the personality of this reading as Dvorák--but until that fully matures within this group, a reading of such commitment as this still leaves a lasting impression.

Eroica opened the program with a questionable arrangement by Anne Dudley of Bach's Chaconne in D Minor, the profound basso ostinato variations written for unaccompanied violin. By its nature, the work makes its most powerful impression in the hands and from the mind of a single interpreter. Spread the material over several players, and you inevitably dilute is structural integrity and, more important, expressive content. The greatest performances are those by solo violinists (who know what they're dealing with, of course) and pianists who can make the well-respected Busoni transcription their own.

On this occasion, the Eroica gave a polished and broadly limned portrayal, but too often the contrapuntal threads were snipped from here and spliced in there. The result gave an impression, at times, that the three instruments were disconnected from one another, and Bach's design paid the price.

The two "seasons" from Astor Piazzolla's Las Estacionas porteñas are contained in Eroica's EMI/Angel CD called Pasión. Arranged by Jose Bragato, a cellist in Piazzolla's band, they distill the essence of the Argentine master's nuevo tango with flair and spirit. At Villa Montalvo, the second of them, Ortoño Porteño, made the most vivid impression, not least for its sharper and more energetic rhythmic punctuation. Following the Dvorák, Eroica encored with one of Brahms' Hungarian Dances.

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From the April 12-18, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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