Albuquerque Journal

February 12, 2008

Trio Delivers Classical Thrills

A new concert series is always to be welcomed. KHFM Performance Live, which had its debut on Sunday, is an extension of KHFM radio, an integral part of many classical-music listeners' lives. These live performances will bring to Albuquerque some world-class performers in the coming months.

Indeed, no less than the Claremont Trio graced the stage of the National Hispanic Cultural Center for an afternoon of Beethoven, Brahms and Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Those who heard this remarkable trio last year in Corrales will no doubt remember its sparkling performance. Twin sisters Emily and Julia Bruskin provide the strings, violin and cello respectively, while pianist Donna Kwong completes the ensemble.

The Beethoven Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1 No. 2, was Beethoven's second published work. It vacillates sometimes easily, sometimes not, between established classicism and Beethoven's more radical tendencies. The scherzo came

out full of almost mischievous wit, while the impetuous repeated notes in the strings sent the finale off to the races.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, born in Florence in 1895, came to the U.S. to escape the Italian fascisti. Best-known for his work for Segovia, the Piano Trio No. 2 was actually inspired by the playing of that master of the guitar and exhibits a strong Spanish influence. Full of melody and exotic harmony, the three-movement work begins with a schietto e deciso (forthright and resolute) movement, which the ensemble attacked enthusiastically. The beautiful romanza movement works through a series of variations, including one beautiful cello solo by Julia Bruskin, working to an ever more passionate climax. The impassioned playing carried over into the rondo, perhaps the most Spanish-sounding of the movements, beginning with a short passage for strings alone. Designated as vivo e ben ritmato (lively and very rhythmic), the movement features the col legno battuto technique of slapping the back of the bow against the strings and even the body of the cello, perhaps simulating castanets.

Following the break, the group dove into the Brahms Piano Trio in C, Op. 87, from the heart of the trio literature. One could hardly ask for a more ravishing performance.

The work would seem to be squarely in the wheelhouse of their collective artistic temperament. In the opening movement the augmentation of the main theme became fervent and expressive. The elfin, Halloween-like scherzo bristled with tension before melting into its luxuriously melodic second theme.

The encore, a selection from Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music, added a dollop of whipped cream to the proceedings.

KHFM Performance Live will continue its season with QuinTango, Anonymous 4 and the Mendelssohn String Quartet. More details can be found at

—D. S. Crafts