Review by Judith Caldwell
Five @ the First’s January concert featured warm music on a cold afternoon to an almost sell-out audience who were very appreciative of the music and the talent. The AYR Piano Trio consists of Angela Park, piano; cellist Rachel Mercer; and Yehonatan Berick, violin. Each has a teaching and a solo career, when they are together it is obvious that they respect each other’s ability and thoroughly enjoy playing as a group.
The afternoon began with Piano Trio in G major “Gypsy” of Joseph Haydn. This is his best-known piano trio and it is dominated by the piano with the violin and cello providing tonal strength.
The Andante opens with a delightful five notes on the piano repeated by the violin and then supported by the cello. The two stringed instruments were both vintage and each had a beautiful resonance which blended well. Pianos these days are apparently much better than in the composer’s time when they were considered weak; tinkly, and in need of tonal support.
The Poco adagio was slow and soft, but cheerful with just a hint of longing. The Finale: Rondo alla Ongarese. Presto is playful, fun and very Hungarian in style (hence the “Gypsy” nickname) and gave Park quite the workout – which didn’t faze her a bit. Next Mercer had been scheduled to play a new work by Darren Sigesmund, which she promised to do at a later date; but instead today she played Bach’s 3rd Suite which consists of six movements – Prelude and five dances which range from a rolling circular Allemande to a courtly Spanish Sarabande and finally a lively British Gigue. Played from memory on an instrument possibly as old as the music, this was a tour de force from Mercer and the audience loved it.
A tough act to follow, but Berick managed it with a Sonata for Solo Violin Op 3 “Ballade” by Eugene Ysaye, whose great-granddaughter was in the audience. Ysaye was a noted Belgian Violinist and composer who played for a time in the Benjamin Bilse Beer Hall Orchestra, which later became the Berlin Philharmonic. He wrote all six of his Solo Violin Sonatas in 1924. Number 3 is in one movement. The piece is difficult; virtuosic and musically very satisfying. Many had never heard it before, but it was well received and appreciated. After intermission, it was back to very large piano trio this time by Franz Schubert – Trio #2 in E flat major Op. 100D. 929 in four movements. Apparently, there is a long version of the final movement but Berick explained that the shorter version made more musical sense to them.
The Allegro featured delicate piano; wonderful interaction between the instruments and was at times lively – then sombre. Andante con moto is dark, pensive and termed the Funeral March partly because it mirrors the Funeral March of Beethoven’s Eroica. Another rationale -Schubert died eight months later at the age of 31. However, it is not ominous but more thoughtful and ultimately hopeful, especially in the piano & cello part. The Scherzando is lively and one hears hints of the Trout. The Finale – Allegro moderato – even in the shorter version featured gorgeous cello lines, light playful violin and a full flourish on the piano. It is a large work beautifully played to a delighted audience who would have been quite happy with the long version. The next concert (March 4th, First Unitarian Church, Dundurn St.) is called “Sound the Trumpet and Violin”.