Adventures In Rarely Heard Music

Prometheus Trio plays rarities by Dukas, Saariaho and Saint-Saëns.

By - Feb 1st, 2019 01:30 pm
Prometheus Trio, 2015

Prometheus Trio, 2015

The Prometheus Trio continues its 19th season at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in concerts next Monday and Tuesday evening. The trio, violinist Margot Schwartz, cellist Scott Tisdel, and pianist Stefanie Jacobhave prepared an ambitious program with several works never played by  the ensemble and probably never heard by their audience members

The concert opens with a familiar-sounding trio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Trio in C Major, K. 548 (1788) sparkles with the energy and positive atmosphere of the melody-laden works that are Mozart’s signature style. The trio is a happy work, with little of the deeper emotional content of Mozart’s minor-key works.

Also upbeat, the Prometheus offers a contemporary work by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, “Light and Matter” (2014). Saariaho has investigated the role of computers and electronic sounds, which add to her perspective seeking new sounds for traditional instruments. The piece shimmers with a wide palette of colors.

Saariaho creates challenges for the players through detailed instructions to create the sounds she wishes. “She asks for some things that are not possible, so we do what we can,” Jacob observes. The listener will not, however, find this work challenging to hear and appreciate. Jacob’s conclusion: “Life is a journey, not a destination. We begin and end in the same place. In the meantime, it’s quite a ride.”

Paul Dukas allowed only a few of his compositions to be published. The opera, Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (1899-1907), is one of his greatest. The opera sets the story of Bluebeard, who imprisoned and tortured his wives. His seventh wife discovers the prior six locked in a forbidden room. After enabling them to flee, the six all decide to stay with their captor. The late nineteenth-century psychodrama explores the tension between power and freedom. Henri Mouton adapted selections for piano trio. The trio extracts a part of the story without commenting in detail on the action. Throughout the trio, the cello takes the aria parts.

Camille Saint-Saëns. Phot by Pierre Petit in 1900.

Camille Saint-Saëns. Phot by Pierre Petit in 1900.

This same story was adapted by Bela Bartok as Bluebeard’s Castle – performed twice in recent years by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. This music, however, is less harsh than Bartok’s. The music has a haunting beauty, with melodies that could be by Debussy or Ravel.

The concert concludes with a substantive work by Camille Saint-Saëns, Duexième Trio, Op. 92 (1892). Written late in his career, the trio is a complex, romantic piece. The work is seriously structured, with attention to counterpoint, a dramatic fugue, and strong dynamics. It’s “at heart, a really romantic piece,” Jacob observes. “A very satisfying piece. There is so much angst. .. It’s not that it is so sad, but afterward, you want to eat chocolate.”

The concert promises to introduce rarely heard works that listeners will be glad have experienced.

The Prometheus Trio will perform twice – at 7:30 p.m. Monday, February 4 and 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, February 5 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on 1584 N. Prospect Ave. For this winter concert, the Tuesday program is scheduled for a daylight hour – 11:00 a.m., rather than the usual 7:30 p.m. start. General admission tickets may be purchased for $27.50 on the WCM website , at 414-276-5760 or at the door. $37.50 will purchase padded front row seats, but the Conservatory ballroom offers an excellent acoustic anywhere in the room. Complimentary parking is available at Milwaukee Eye Care, 1684 N. Prospect Ave., located one block north of the Conservatory, for evening concerts.

The Trio’s last concert of the season is scheduled for April 22 and 23 featuring Schubert, Martinu, Ravel, and Schoenfield. Works include several duets – every permutation of the violin, cello and piano ensemble.

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