by Daniel Hathaway
The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo, and cellist Sharon Robinson) will present the last of five faculty concerts in the Kent Blossom Music Festival Series on Wednesday, July 31 at 7:30 pm in Ludwig Recital Hall on the Kent State campus. Named the Kulas Visiting Artists for this year’s Festival, the Trio will perform music by Previn, Ravel, and Mendelssohn. Tickets are available online.
The KLR Trio enjoyed a distinguished debut as an ensemble more than four decades ago, having been invited to perform at the White House in 1977 as part of the inauguration festivities for President Jimmy Carter. (Joseph Kalichstein reminisced about that event in an interview for this publication in October of 2012).
I reached Sharon Robinson and Jaime Laredo by telephone at their home in Cleveland, where they both teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music, to chat about their Kent program. I began by asking them about André Previn’s Piano Trio No. 2, which the ensemble commissioned and debuted during their 2012-2013 season, and which they’ve brought back recently.
Sharon Robinson: We toured with it several seasons then put it away, but when Previn’s 90th birthday was approaching, we decided to get it out. Then it turned out that he just died. It’s a wonderful piece. We’ve enjoyed coming back to it so much. And you, too Jaime?
Jaime Laredo: Absolutely, I love the piece, I really do. It’s very lyrical. I remember a phone conversation while was writing it when he said, “I think you’re going to like this. There are some really nice tunes in it.” I thought that was so quaint and cute. But he was right. I think the slow movement is just ravishing — haunting and beautiful. And the last movement is a lot of fun. Very rhythmical.
SR: Kind of Jazzy, very upbeat. He’s not afraid to wear his heart right on his sleeve. He’s unabashedly Romantic in his sentiment. There’s a lot of mischievous frothiness to the third movement. It’s very happy and a lot of fun to play.
DH: Have other groups performed the Previn?
JL: I’ve never heard about other groups playing it, but it’s very possible that we’re just not aware of it. If they haven’t, they will, believe me.
SR: It’s going to last. It’s one of the great works written for piano trio in the last half-century. We feel very proud and honored to get to do it again.
DH: One of the reasons to commission new works is to add them to the canon, and your trio has done a lot in that regard.
JL: We’ve been incredibly lucky, because so many of the pieces we’ve commissioned have really become part of the repertoire. Our very first commission was from Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and her Trio No. 1 is played everywhere. So many times when we give a master class, we find young kids are playing it.
SR: And next season, or the one after, we’re bringing back Richard Danielpour’s A Child’s Reliquary. We feel that’s really a keeper, and one that’s going to be around for a long, long time.
JL: It’s already been played a lot.
DH: When was that written?
JL: 12, maybe 15 years ago?
SR: The years all run together.
DH: And you have more than forty of them to remember now. Let’s talk about the Ravel Trio.
SR: It’s one of the great masterpieces. The colors he evokes and the moods he’s able to paint with the music make it so enjoyable to come back to every time and hunt for those special colors that he gets. It’s amazing.
JL: To me, it’s just as great as anything written for piano trio by Beethoven or Mendelssohn. We’ve been together for 42 years and I think we’ve been playing it for 38 of those years. We never perform any piece every year but when we come back to the Ravel after a few seasons, we breathe this big sigh — oh, my god, isn’t this incredible.
DH: You’ll be ending with the Mendelssohn d-minor trio.
JL: Mendelssohn’s c minor was one of the first pieces we ever played — on our very first concert at the White House. The d-minor followed shortly, probably the second year we were together. The very first recording we made was of those two pieces, so they have been our friends and companions for our whole life.
SR: Audiences and presenters are always asking for one of the Mendelssohn trios, and we’re so pleased because he’s tops in our book. He’s not second-drawer anything.
DH: That piece is quite a workout for Josie, I would expect.
Both: Yes it is!
DH: And the Beethoven trios as well. As a young pianist, he was trying to impress people in Vienna at the time.
JL: Especially with the Opus 1 Trios. Wow!
DH: Are you doing some coaching at Kent Blossom as well as the recital?
SR: Both Jaime and I are doing a chamber music class, and Josie’s doing one on Monday on piano chamber music. Some of our CIM students are at Kent Blossom, so it will be nice to connect with them, too.
JL: For me, this is a really nice return, because Blossom started 51 years ago, and I was there the very first year. I remember there were guest artists like me, Leonard Rose, and John Browning. And Pierre Boulez did some extraordinary things there with the kids. It was a very exciting time and place. I did go back once the third or fourth year, but not since then.
SR: It’s not one of the festivals we’ve frequented, but we’re very happy to be there.
DH: What’s coming up on your calendar for the trio?
JL: Next season, we’ll be giving a Beethoven cycle in New York.
SR: And playing the Beethoven Triple in Miami with the New World Symphony. We’re looking forward to that because some of our students play in that orchestra.
JL: We’re doing a very interesting program in several places of three transcriptions for trio, one being an arrangement of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht by his friend Eduard Steuermann which is beautifully done. It catches the flavor and color of what for me is one of the most sublime pieces ever written. Then, a transcription of Brahms’ String Sextet — he was Schoenberg’s favorite composer — along with Schumann’s Six Canonic Etudes, which were originally for pedal piano. So besides the usual stuff, we’re always looking for some offbeat things.
SR: We’re also involved — not next season, but the season after — in a new piece by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. The topic is the concentration camps, and we’ll pair her piece with Messiaen’s Quartet For the End of Time with a guest clarinetist. So we’re still out there looking for new works, while embracing all the great repertoire we’ve gotten to explore over the last 40-plus years. We’re still enjoying that very much.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com July 26, 2019.
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