The Friends of Chamber Music of Reading opened its new season at the WCR Center for the Arts on Friday night with one of the greatest concerts I have heard in my life.
You must understand that the Friends' concerts are of impeccable quality, and wonderful music has been made in that venue over many years. But Friday's event, featuring the recently formed Tempest Trio, was something special indeed.
The trio is made up of three acclaimed soloists: violinist Ilya Kaler, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory who is the only violinist to have won gold medals at the Tchaikovsky (1986), Sibelius (1985) and Paganini (1981) competitions; pianist Alon Goldstein (well-known to Berks audiences as a soloist with the Reading Symphony Orchestra and in recital last October at the WCR); and cellist Amit Peled, who has also appeared with the RSO, and teaches at the Peabody Conservatory.
All three have concertized and recorded extensively, and all three have strong, exciting musical personalities.
They have been compared to the legendary trio made up of the late pianist Arthur Rubenstein, violinist Jascha Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky in the 1940s. I thought this was an exaggeration until I heard them.
While they are undoubtedly capable of anything, they seem particularly well-suited to the Romantic repertoire, as evidenced in their stunning performance of Johannes Brahms' symphonic Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8, with which they ended the evening.
Capturing as it did Brahms' typical combination of nobility and great sorrow, grace and muscularity, their playing was quite overwhelming to hear. The sheer sensuous pleasure of their sound (aided by three magnificent instruments), along with their gift for drama, made for a transcendent experience.
The full-bodied, majestic opening movement; the breathless, galloping Scherzo; the austere but shimmering Adagio; and the sumptuous, waltzing finale were played with a profound artistry which forces me to raise the bar on all other chamber groups.
They opened the concert with Beethoven's elegant Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11, in which Goldstein's sparkling technique, producing gauzy skeins of notes in the scale passages; Peled's dark-molasses sound and passion; and Kaler's subtlety and lovely phrasing were immediately evident.
They also played the rarely heard "Three Nocturnes" by Ernest Bloch, a 20th-century composer with Romantic sensibility. They gave moving readings of the first Nocturne, with its mysterious melodies wafting up like incense; the second, a sweet lullaby; and the third, "Tempestoso," in which they earned their name with turbulent playing.
The Reading Eagle, Susan Pena, 9/17/2011