Variety and confidence mark Prometheus concert
The Prometheus Trio – pianist Stefanie Jacob, violinst Timothy Klabunde and cellist Scott Tisdel — continued their series February 14-15 with a concert introducing two little known composers along with a Dvorak Quartet.
Music by Franz Adolf Berwald led the set. The Swedish composer’s limited output in the mid-19th Century fits squarely in the Romantic tradition. Optimistic energy and memorable melodies carry the day in his Piano Trio in E-flat major (1851). Although Stefanie Jacob’s program notes observe that “proper” sonata form is ignored, the progression makes sense. Lovely melodies introduced by the cello – and later, violin – are in turn developed by each player. Transitional elements build the momentum.
A light piano motif frames two explorations of an even more romantic theme in the second movement. The final movement advances at a brisker pace but does not abandon the overall lyricism of the whole work.
Although it rarely carries the themes, the piano clearly leads the work – directing transitions, slowing or picking up the pace and decorating themes the cello or violin introduce and carry. The Prometheus is at its best when Jacob brings her enthusiasm to the music and directs it from her perch at the piano.
Frequently violin and cello explore themes together. As a phrase develops, each note combination becomes increasingly more dissonant than the last. Although edgy, the dissonance is not meant to drive the listener away, but to increase tension. Release, such as it is, comes with melancholy melodies in a minor key – with less dissonance and great emotional beauty. Tisdel’s cello sings the achingly beautiful phrases and Klabunde’s violin the soaring, tense but triumphant ones. The emotional highs recall the largo movement in the Shostakovich 5th Symphony. The high, percussive piano accompaniment at that point matches the sound of the celesta in that symphony.
The effect is emotionally draining, but entirely satisfying to the modern palate. Memorable motifs return again and again to worm their way into the listener’s heart.
The concert concluded with a fully satisfying performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 87, a mature work in which Classical structure binds Romantic lyricism. Even if you don’t know this particular work, it will sound familiar, because it so represents Dvorak’s style. Robert Levine, principal violist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, completed the quartet. As usual, the viola enriches the texture and harmony rather than play a virtuoso role. But Dvorak, a violist himself, does ensure that the viola gets its share of the exchanges during melodic development. Rich, romantic melodies spill from the work at every turn.
As an encore, Jacobs arranged an extract from a work by Dvorak written during his visit to the U.S., the Violin Sonatina in G major, Opus 100 (1893) (2nd movement). The light work incorporated Dvorak’s take on American Indian themes, complete with dance and tom tom.
See the preview of this concert for more about the composers.
The Prometheus Trio’s last concert of the season is scheduled for April: Monday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. Call 414-276-5760 for tickets. More information here. The Conservatory is located at 1584 N. Prospect Ave. Valet service is available for $5.