The “Music on the Hill” series closed out its year with a program that included Schubert’s Piano Trio in B flat major and Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor. The performers were violinists Helen Kim, cellist Charae Krueger, and pianist Robert Henry. All three are from Kennesaw State University.
As with other performances in this series, the performers were technically skilled and they played beautifully together. Henry is top-notch; he plays with subtle nuance and manages to shake the wobbly piano with his firm touch. Both Kim and Krueger have a beautiful tone. Kim tends toward a limited vibrato, but nevertheless has a warm sound that is enhanced in Northside Baptist’s great acoustics. One of the advantages of a trio is that all of the instruments have their sound boards facing the listener. This makes for a big sound that demonstrates how powerful three musical performers can be.
Schubert was a master of beautiful melodies. The first movement is full of ideas and creativity. It is a whirlwind of material. The second movement showcases the cello to great effect. The third movement Scherzo has a lovely waltz-like quality. The final movement is a fast-paced high energy closing. This music was well served by the performers.
Arensky is a late romantic composer who was trained by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. Yet, the former suggested that Arensky had a paucity of original style and would not be remembered. To some degree that is true. Aside from this trio, he is most well known for his Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky for string orchestra. As soon as the trio began there was little doubt that this was Russian music- it has broad melody and intense emotion. From time to time, folk-like melodies were apparent. This is wonderfully intense music that is heart-felt and, at times, sad. It was played with appropriate passion and élan.
It is hypothesized that Schubert died of typhus made worse by syphilis, and Arensky died of tuberculosis exacerbated by his alcoholism. Their suffering probably added to the greatness of these two works.
Schubert was eloquent about his suffering:
In a word, I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair over this ever makes things worse and worse, instead of better; imagine a man, I say, whose most brilliant hopes have perished, to whom the happiness of love and friendship have nothing to offer but pain, at best, whose enthusiasm (at least of the stimulating kind) for all things beautiful threatens to disappear, and I ask you, is he not a miserable, unhappy being?
This was a very satisfying way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The fall will bring a return of this rewarding chamber series.