An afternoon with BSO, Lisitsa, Weilerstein, Montrose Trio, Baltimore composers

Montrose Trio
The Baltimore Sun

From Meyerhoff, I headed to the JHU campus to catch the first half of Montrose Trio's program, which featured the East Coast premiere of James Lee III's Piano Trio No. 2 ("Temple Visions"), the first of three works commissioned by Shriver Hall Concert Series to mark the organization's 50th anniversary.

Lee, who teaches at Morgan State University, often finds inspiration in the Book of Revelation, as is the case with this score. Even without knowing that notions of archangels, celestial conflicts and the temple of Babylon (real or spiritual) are behind the notes, it is easy to sense a drama unfolding in the course of the work.

The striking forward thrust at the opening "Internal Conflicts" movement and the subsequent reflective haze, with its gentle tolling effect from the keyboard, make a strong impression. Same for a swirling, swooping scherzo ("Galactic Districts") that intriguingly  evaporates at the end.

A bittersweet melody introduced by the cello and, later, explored by the violin in "A City Mourned" provides a telling reflection. Lee lets loose with wonderfully aggressive, jumpy material for all three instruments in the fourth movement, "Final Resolutions"; the piano has some particularly wild outbursts. A contrasting touch of other-worldliness along the way gives the music additional depth before a closing dash.

I am not sure about the composer's Hindemith-like move toward a firmly tonal resolution in the last measure of the outer movements; the effect sounds a little forced. Still, the piece exerts a continually potent pull.

It could not have had more expert advocates. Violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith, who were members of the famed Tokyo String Quartet before it disbanded, and pianist Jon Kimura Parker played with virtuosity and sensitivity. Parker, in particular, had bravura to spare in the score's most treacherous passages.

Lee joined the musicians onstage for an enthusiastic ovation.     

At the top of the program, the Montrose players made clear just how much Beethoven was determined to catch attention with his Op. 1, No. 1. The E-flat Piano Trio abounds in clever, even witty ideas, along with passages of remarkable eloquence.

All of those characteristics were easy to savor in this excellent ensemble's vibrant, close-knit, performance.      

Read the rest of the review here 

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