Naples Daily News

November 17, 2005

Claremont Trio's night was perfectly wonderful

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.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening of seamlessly performed classical and contemporary music by the three young women. The sellout crowd loved it, too, and gave the trio two standing ovations. They were so good I would have given them one more - for their exuberant performance of contemporary composer Paul Schoenfield's "Café Music."

The trio consists of identical twins Emily Bruskin (violin) and Julia Bruskin (cello), and Donna Kwong (piano). The women are attractive (each of them was attired in a slightly different toned red gown), and intelligent (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, multiple academic awards, etc). Couple those traits with brilliant musicianship, and your cup overfloweth.

That's what the audience got Tuesday night.

The trio's sensitivity and balance was near perfection. Together since meeting at Juilliard in 1999, the three musicians have been garnering nonstop kudos and awards ever since. Completing their second year as the winner of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award, by the end of the season they will have performed in all 20 chamber music venues (including Naples) that have united to support the award.

Their program consisted of three selections: Beethoven's commonly referred to "Ghost" trio ("Piano Trio in D Major, Opus 70, No. 1"), Paul Schoenfield's marvelous "Café Music," and Schumann's ethereal "Piano Trio in F Major, Op. 80." After those selections, played to virtual perfection, the women returned to the stage to perform a personal favorite: the "Scherzo" movement from

Felix Mendelssohn's "Trio in D Minor." That blistering performance, performed with what appeared to be effortless grace, was breathtaking.

Beethoven's "Ghost Trio" is a composition of great contrasts, ranging from the eerie second movement ("Largo") to its intensely beautiful third and final movement ("Presto") in which the three instruments "converse" with each other.

If I were to offer one criticism - and it may have been where I was sitting - I believe the performance would have benefited from more amplification. Much of the delicate portions of this number are pianissimo/piano and I would not be surprised to find that some older members in the audience had a bit of difficulty discerning the softest portions.

The group, known for performing the best of exciting new music in each program, gave the audience a real treat in Paul Schoenfield's "Café Music." What didn't Schoenfield incorporate in this toe-tapping, rhythmically marvelous number? As American as apple pie, there were snippets of what appeared to be a derivation of "42nd Street" nestled with honky tonk, rag, and a host of other flavors. I could happily have listened to that selection over and over.

They were smashing, absolutely nailing every nuance. Kwong, the pianist, hit the keyboard running, her fingers effortlessly gliding up and down the keyboard. Despite the fact that she sits ramrod straight as she performs, she plays blues and ragtime piano as if she were born to the task. And it's no small task for a pianist not to overwhelm a violin and cello, given the greater potential volume of the instrument. Even during the loudest, fortissimo portions, she never displayed the slightest hint of imbalance.

And so the number played on, a couple of wonderful segues interspersed in the midst of all the rhythm. You should have heard the violin wail, and the cello talk right back. What attitude: It was tasty, tasty, tasty.

The third selection, Robert Schumann's "Piano Trio in F Major, Op. 80," is a wonderful composition (actually it was a composite of several pieces), and the trio performed it, like the rest of the program, exquisitely.

Though Schumann was consumed with inner demons for much of his tragic life, and died a horrible death in a mental institution, there is no gloom, no pathos in this trio. Beauty abounds, the three women proved, their beautifully balanced instruments speaking to each other.

The Claremont Trio are the freshest breath of air in the world of chamber music today. We should award them a musical key to the city, and invite them back to speak in the schools, something they love doing. I'll bet they would create a groundswell of new interest in classical music.

—Peg Goldberg Longstreth