Barry Plaxen’s Review of Neave Piano Trio & Carla Jablonski

P.L.A.Y. the Classics

April 14, 2019

Bethel Woods

The Shandelee Music Festival (SMF) presented its opening concert for another series of “P.L.A.Y. the Classics” in conjunction with Bethel Woods. For the past few seasons, these concerts were/are the only classical music events offered at Bethel Woods.

In the last ten years, Astor Piazzolla’s (1921-1992) music has been heard in Orange and Sullivan Counties in almost a dozen chamber music and symphony concerts, a feat equaled only by composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Shostakovich and Ravel – indicative of his growing popularity with audiences and his challenging and satisfying composing for instrumentalists.

Notwithstanding the title of the April 14, 2019 afternoon’s concert offered in the Event Gallery at the Bethel Woods Museum, “Celebrating Piazzolla with the Neave Trio Featuring Metropolitan Opera Singer Carla Jablonski”, the program opened with Amy Beach’s (1867-1944) “Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 150.” The trio offers both romantic and impressionistic qualities, opening with a flowery passage by the piano prior to the cello’s introducing a lovely melody.

Beach’s trio was followed by Piazzolla’s (1921-1992) Estaciones Porteñas, “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” arranged for trio by one of Piazzolla’s colleagues, José Bragato. The set of four compositions was originally conceived and treated as different compositions rather than one suite, scored for Piazzolla’s quintet of violin (or viola), piano, electric guitar, double bass and bandoneón. Both the Beach and Piazzolla trios presented 20th century chamber music in a sort of innovative way, combining romanticism with impressions (Beach), and classical with tango (Piazzolla) - albeit upgraded from a popular dance form to a more complicated rhythmic/classical structure. The fourth movement, “Spring,” even began with a fugue-like passage moving from the violin to the cello to the piano.

Though interesting and impressive in their own ways, the two works were not as uplifting for me as the second half of the program. The trio was joined by Carla Jablonski for what was possibly supposed to be the Piazzolla with which we are all familiar – tango-like melodies embellished with classical music structures that we usually hear played on instruments at a chamber music concert. Having the songs sung instead by an artist of Ms. Jablonski’s abilities, it turned out for me to be a concert worthy of any art song presentation. The five Piazzolla songs were incredibly varied and were all moving and highly entertaining in some fashion, be it “mostly classical” or “mostly tango” or even “cabaret-ish”. Ms. Jablonski accessed many different colors for us – light, dramatic, narrative, powerful, gentle, and – of course – highly expressive.

And speaking of Piazzolla’s own quintet, the songs we heard were arranged for trio by Leonardo Suárez Paz, the son of Piazzolla’s quintet violinist, Fernando Suárez Paz. He (Leonardo) was instrumental (no pun intended) in assisting the Neave Trio prepare for playing Piazzolla’s music with its sometimes unique embellishments such as sliding on the strings, tapping the bodies of the violin, lovingly played by Anna Williams, and cello - intensely played by Mikhail Veselev - who honored us by seeming to play most of the music from memory even though he did glance at it on his stand now and then.

Eri Nakamura is the trio’s pianist who excelled no matter what the music required, percussive and rhythmic for the tango quality, or clean, clear arpeggios and runs for the impressionistic moments, or much expression in the dynamics for the melodies.

The concert closed with a song selection written by Leonardo Suárez Paz.

The SMF will continue its 26th season with additional P.L.A.Y. the Classics concerts at Bethel Woods later in the year, and of course, for its August Festival in its beautiful location on Shandelee Mountain.

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