Goodbye Timothy Klabunde
Prometheus plays its last date with violinist Klabunde, and it was a memorable concert indeed.
The Prometheus Trio—Stefanie Jacob, piano; Scott Tisdel, cello; Timothy Klabunde, violin—has been an important musical presence in Milwaukee for fifteen years (ten in this combination of artists), and it was a bittersweet occasion hearing these friends play their last concert together with Klabunde. As I listened, I let my alleged mind run to its own destinations, and the image of single-malt Scotch whiskey kept floating up. Just so we’re clear, I am a teetotaler. But there was a metaphor in my mind, that these musicians are smooth, filtered through the peat of experience, barreled in the oaken cask of friendship, and pour out their music splendidly to the listeners like angels were dancing in our ears.
Their program opened with Franz Joseph Haydn’s delightful Trio in G Major, Hob. XV: 41. This is extremely happy music. Even the plaster roses on the ceiling of the Helen Bader Recital Hall at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music looked rosier for the sweetness of the melodies. Jacob was the star of this piece. The first-movement Allegro had a trill-filled melody that she delivered with such charm and radiance, it was impossible not to smile. The second-movement Menuet was a stately dance colorfully decorated with ornaments, again beautifully executed by Jacob. The melody in the trio section was played with conviviality by Klabunde. Haydn was otherwise entirely economical with the string parts, relegating them to an occasional imitation of the piano line in the violin and a lot of simple highlighting of the chord structure in the cello. Jacob’s graceful playing in the Adagio carbonated the tender melody. The Finale: Allegro flew by with joyous spirit. Jacob offered virtuosic playing throughout.
Tisdel played the work with his usual aplomb including a passage with some ridiculously impressive harmonics. Jacob directed phrases with sensitivity, power, and heartfelt pulse. Klabunde played beautifully throughout. His generous musicality and energetic violin playing were in top form.
After a slightly distracted Jacob straightened Tisdel’s suit collar to her satisfaction, the second half of the program was devoted to an absorbing trio version of the Brahms String Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 18 arranged for piano trio by Theodor Kirchner. The string sextet of Brahms is a keystone of string chamber music. Hearing it in this version is no less satisfying than the sextet, and it gave the trio many opportunities to show their formidable chamber music skills.
Ten years together as an ensemble has imbued in these three a musical camaraderie that is a treat for audiences. At once intimate and welcoming, their music making was a pleasure, as though these friends had us into their living room to play Haydn, Hagen, and Brahms not for the notice but for the love of it. Congratulations to Klabunde, we shall miss his playing with the group, and bravo to the Prometheus Trio for a memorably pleasurable evening.