Berryessa Sun

April 5, 2006

Technique, youth zest make Claremont Trio an exciting chamber musical force

Long after the Claremont Trio's performance Tuesday night at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the lobby was still packed. Patrons were eagerly awaiting an opportunity to buy the group's debut CD and to meet the three musicians.

Lovers of classical music always find some surprising richness in the diverse offerings of the Stanford Lively Arts series which goes forth throughout the year mostly at the intimate Dinkelspiel auditorium on the campus only a half hour from our side of the bay. A perfect example of this splendid regional resource was last week's concert by the Claremont Trio made up of the youthful Bruskin twins, Emily on violin and Julia on cello, joined by Donna Kwong at the piano.

Here is a group that restores every listener's faith that chamber music is very much alive and has a vital future.

Most chamber music tends to be quartet

based but the trio literature, while more limited, equally gets to the heart of what chamber music is all about. The intricate dialogue that proceeds from one instrumentalist to the other and the range of emotions and mood the form projects is even more starkly audible in a trio.

The Claremont demonstrated a sweep of musical offerings in their interesting program at Stanford, beginning with a trio by Franz Joseph Hayden, which he wrote for a talented young pianist in London in 1795. These trios inspired Mozart and Beethoven to venture forward with trio music. The Hayden marked a final step where the piano dominated the two-stringed instruments. Kwong, a Vancouver native, showed her mastery of a complex and difficult score.

The trio then moved into a modern example of great trio writing with New Yorker Leon Kirchner's trio No. 1 of 1954. The two-movement work ranged from quiet, reflective romanticism to a powerful intensity. The score is without specific tempo indicators but has directions like "wild," "Lyrically tender" or "coming from nowhere, almost out of control." Fortunately the Claremont had an opportunity to be coached by Kirchner in putting this galvanizing musical gem together.

The program closed with a lush Robert Schumann trio No. 2 from 1847, where strong overtones of Brahms-like power coupled with a complex and difficult final movement. To cap off the evening, the young women encored with a popular contemporary work by Paul Schoenfeld called Cafe Society which is captivating in its yeastiness and jazzy idiom. It proved a great crowd pleaser.

Any parents with youngsters coming along with an interest in classical music would do well to sit in on chamber music programs like the Claremont Trio offers. The youth and attractiveness of the group along with their skillful renditions of some of the less-well known works of the past three centuries could be an inspirational experience.

Established back in 1999 while still enrolled at Juilliard School in New York,

the three women have gone on to be the initial winner of the coveted Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International trio award besting more than 1,200 other musicians. They now perform at the top venues around the world and have made their debut compact disc with a group of Mendelssohn trios.

—Mort Levine