Prometheus Trio Returns to Live Performance

A performance on Sunday will feature four piano trios.

By - Oct 22nd, 2021 04:08 pm
Prometheus Trio, 2015

Prometheus Trio

Following a pandemic-forced transition to online performances, Milwaukee’s Prometheus Trio welcomes a live audience Sunday afternoon, Oct. 24 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. The ensemble, featuring pianist Stefanie Jacob, violinist Margot Schwartz, and cellist Scott Tisdel, is celebrating its 21st year in residence at the Conservatory.

Prometheus Trio is “so ready” to play for a live audience, Jacob said. While the ensemble appreciated the opportunity to present two Facebook Live performances this year, she said, “We’re really looking forward to seeing the reaction to our music” on the faces of those in the audience.

Sunday’s program will present four piano trios spanning 150 years. Jacob describes the process of choosing the repertoire as akin to planning a menu, “finding flavors that complement each other.”

The opening “Trio in F Major”, written by Joseph Haydn about 1766, is among the earliest he composed in this chamber form. (He eventually produced 45 piano trios.) The three-movement piece was likely written for the harpsichord and follows the practice, common in Baroque-era works, of having the cello part double the left hand of the keyboard with only chord symbols guiding the cellist’s harmonization of the bass line.  The right hand of the keyboard engages in conversation with the violin throughout the piece, which Jacob described as “unalloyed joy.”

Ernest Bloch wrote the much darker “Three Nocturnes” in 1924, while he served as director of the Cleveland Institute of Music.  The nocturnes, described by musicologist Kai Christiansen as “a triptych of thoughtful artistic unity,” depict various aspects of the night. Bloch stretches the palette of sound available to the piano, violin, and cello, combining elements such as exotic scales, ominous harmonies, and rhythmic variation to create mesmerizing moods.

Composer Clara Schumann (1819-1896), whose “Trio in G Minor” will close the first half of the program, has been described as one of the 19th century’s most influential female musicians.  She also was a champion multi-tasker.  She balanced performance as a highly-regarded concert pianist with composition, raising eight children, teaching, and supporting the career of her composer husband Robert.  Written when Clara Schumann was only 27 years old, the Trio is considered the masterpiece of her published works. Throughout the four-movement piece, the three instruments are in turn assertively independent and supportive of one another, with the composition demanding virtuosity of each player.

Sunday’s program will close with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Trio Elégiaque in D Minor”. The work expresses the young Rachmaninoff’s grief at the unexpected death in November 1893 of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, his close friend and mentor. In tribute to his master, the Trio’s form closely models Tchaikovsky’s “Trio in A Minor,” written in memory of his friend Nikolai Rubinstein.  As Rachmaninoff’s work articulates his anguish and sorrow, it also communicates his gratitude for Tchaikovsky’s friendship and support.

For audience members who are “so ready” to hear an in-person performance, the concert promises to be a stimulating and rewarding re-introduction to the joy of live chamber music.

Prometheus Trio will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, October 24, in the Helen Bader Concert Hall at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N. Prospect Ave. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the Conservatory by calling 414-276-5760 or online. (If you purchase online you will be asked to “enroll” and set up an account.) Under WCM’s COVID policy, upon entry, audience members must show evidence of vaccination for COVID-19 or a negative COVID test in the past 72 hours. Masks are required during the performance. There will be no ticket sales at the door.  Limited free parking is available in the lot behind the building.

Prometheus Trio will return to the stage Dec. 6-7, welcoming guest violist Beth Breslin for performances of the Bach Goldberg Variations and the Fauré Piano Quartet No. 2 in G. Minor.

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