Prometheus Trio Begins 20th Season

Trio will play a mix of masterwork and new material.

By - Oct 9th, 2019 12:44 pm
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Prometheus Trio, 2015

Prometheus Trio

The Prometheus Trio opens its 20th season at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in concerts next Monday and Tuesday evening. The trio, violinist Margot Schwartz, cellist Scott Tisdeland pianist Stefanie Jacob, will present a well-balanced program with a selection from a very early trio, a masterwork and a trio published only one year ago.

With the invention of the pianoforte, Joseph Haydn‘s work defined the genre. In this mature work, the Trio in E Major, Hob. XV: 28 (1797) Hadyn offers a pleasant, formal, yet challenging work for piano. The piano’s right-hand plays a lovely cantabile melody throughout the opening movement, often supported by pizzicato accompaniment. The central movement features a bass-line repeating phrase, a passacaglia. The phrase continues in the piano’s left hand as the right-hand sings cheerfully above it. Strings occasionally offer meandering variations of the passacaglia phrase. A pleasant dialogue between piano and strings concludes the work.

The classical, deliciously understated form of the Haydn trio contrasts with the broad reach of Antonin Dvorák‘s Trio in F minor, Op. 65  (1883). Ondrej Supka, creator of a web site dedicated to Dvorak writes of the Op. 65 Trio:

The opulence of sound, expression, and form in this symphonically conceived work almost transcends the chamber music genre itself. In terms of its expression, this composition is exceptional in Dvorak’s oeuvre: instead of the warmth and spontaneous joy of life typical for Dvorak, the music here conveys dark and somber thoughts, a sense of uncertainty, uneasiness, and defiance.

Jacobs comments: “I just love this piece. The outer movements are quite dramatic, with many shifts of mood. The second theme in the first movement is just gorgeous, with a heartfelt cello solo immediately re-imagined as a soaring violin line in both exposition and recapitulation. And the second movement is just delightful. Like all Dvorák, luscious harmonies underlie the folk-like themes. But if I had to find ONE thing, it’s the arc of the first movement, just a masterpiece of construction (and the gorgeous harmonies and melodies don’t hurt, either!)”

Composer Timo Andres. Photo by Michael Wilson.

Composer Timo Andres. Photo by Michael Wilson.

The concert’s contemporary artist, Timo Andres studied at Yale at the same time as violinist Schultz. A classical pianist, Andres accompanied Schwartz as a part of her graduate performance recital. In a short time, Andres has built a significant body of work, including a number of pieces for full orchestra. Andres wrote a commissioned work and played with Present Music for a 2012 Thanksgiving concert. A piano quartet, I found it by the sea, was performed by Present Music in February 2013.

Andres was commissioned to write a piano trio for the 2018 Ravinia Festival in Chicago. Schwartz played in the Present Music concerts and recommended this new work to her colleagues.

Andres writes:

My Piano Trio (2018) is three large structures built with many similar repetitions of the same module. The result is [sic] piece so obsessed with its own material that it seemed to demand the generic title. In the first two movements, this obsession is interrogative, even aggressive; the structures are stress tests, seeing how much layering, counterpoint, rhythmic and harmonic distortion the music can be subjected to until it reaches a breaking point. The final movement is a more passive sort of obsession, unconsciously turning over the same idea until it transforms itself unbidden.

Perhaps Andres description misleads. The trio opens quietly on a solo instrument followed by a gradual thickening of the music as others join in. The harmonies are lovely and the work carefully balanced. Complex rhythms and tense moments are explored, but the work ends as quietly as it began.

The Prometheus Trio will perform twice – at 7:30 p.m. Monday, October 14 and Tuesday, October 15 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on 1584 N. Prospect Ave. 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 and an open view of the Trio, but the Conservatory ballroom offers excellent acoustics anywhere in the room. Student tickets are available. Tickets are free for Conservatory students. Season tickets for all four concerts offer significant savings.

Complimentary parking is available at Milwaukee Eye Care, 1684 N. Prospect Ave., located one block north of the Conservatory, for evening concerts.

The Prometheus Trio performs next on December 2 and 3 featuring guest flutist Heather Zinniger Yarmel. Flute trios by Haydn, Martinu, Doppler, and Carter will be offered as well as a trio for piano and strings by Mendelssohn.

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