Dallas Morning News

February 8, 2010

Classical music review: Dallas Chamber ventures out of comfort zone with Claremont Trio at Latino Cultural Center

Not known for daring programming, Dallas Chamber Music on Monday night ventured out of its comfort zone. With the superb young Claremont Trio onstage at the Latino Cultural Center (pianist Donna Kwong, violinist Emily Bruskin and cellist Julia Bruskin - yes, sisters), the all-American program ventured nothing composed before 1986. And all five pieces were well worth hearing.

A new piano trio by the 40-something Boston composer Howard Frazin had its world premiere. Sixteen minutes long, titled Some Thoughts on Good and Evil, its three movements related to the composer's song settings of Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem" and William Blake's "The Tiger."

A passionate outburst is followed by a lyrical outpouring from the cello, suggesting Fauré. Indeed, Fauré and Ravel seem great-great godparents to this genuinely touching triptych, which wastes not a note.

The concert's most imposing piece was the 1993 Piano Trio No. 2 by the late Leon Kirchner. One of the more rigorous mid-20th-century American modernists, Kirchner here proves that hyper-chromatic lines can fit into tonal harmonies and expectations.

In a single movement, with multiple contrasting sections, this is music of a mature master, as finely worked as a great sculpture or a late Beethoven string quartet.

The three-movement 1987 Piano Trio by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich deftly contrasts busy, buzzing music in the first movement with two-note motifs. The finale is exuberant dance music, with some anxious overtones.

Two works inspired by popular idioms framed the program. Mason Bates' 2002 String Band fragments and recombines suggestions of country bands, while Paul Schoenfield's 1986 Cafe Music is a crowd-pleasing sendup of old-fashioned jazz.

The Claremont's performances all evening were astonishingly polished and expressive, but also probing. It's too bad Kwong was stuck with an undersized, inadequate piano. And the interminable pre-concert interview was a lot of blather with little enlightening content. There ought to be a law.

—Scott Cantrell

Classical Music Critic