Trio Celeste is a California-based ensemble. In residence at UCLA-Irvine, the trio is made up of violinist Iryna Krechkovsky, cellist Ross Gasworth and pianist Kevin Kwan Loucks. Their 2016 release for Navona Records evidences their elegant playing and imaginative exploration of the repertoire for chamber trio.
The CD has Beethoven’s Piano Trio in G Major, Op 1, No. 2, an early work that seems to reluctantly say farewell to the 18th century even as it moves assuredly into the 1800’s with unabashed sentiment, playfulness and Romantic sweep. The Trio Celeste plays this early Beethoven gem with delicacy and bravura, yet never imposing interpretive excesses on the music.
The next ten tracks of the CD are devoted to Constellations: Variations on a Theme by Beethoven. Commissioned by the trio from ten living composers, the collection of pieces consists of ten variations on the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in G Major, Op 1, No. 2, by Eugene Drucker, Mike Block, Eric Guinivan, Peter Erskine, Paul Dooley, Fred Hersch, Samuel Adler, Jim Scully, Christina Spinei and Pierre Jalbert. The ten miniatures range in length from barely over one minute to slightly over two, and vary in approach from the serious to the whimsical and from the decidedly atonal to the comfortably melodic. It is an altogether bold bit of programming and an eminently successful one.
The Dvorak Dumky Trio takes the lion’s share of the CD’s tracks. A six-movement composition, the piece opens with a haunting Lento redolent of Moravian folk melodies, that soon opens up into a Gypsy-inflected Allegro that gives violinist Krechkovsky an opportunity to display both her technique and the unique sound of her 1689 “Baumgartner” Stradivarius
In the second movement and again later, cellist Ross Gasworth plays with a deep singing tone just perfect for the melancholic moments of the piece. Dvorak structures the six movements in an unpredictable way, seamlessly moving in each one of them but for the fifth one from slow to fast.
Pianist Loucks holds his own in this sterling company, staying in the background when mere accompanying is needed, then moving into prominence at the right moments.
The engineering by Jesse Lewis and Kyle Pyke is impeccable, allowing the trio to stay up front and present throughout with a clean, unadorned sound. The packaging is simple and tasteful, including brief and pertinent notes.
The good people at Navona Records (www.navonarecords.com) continue to make our lives richer with new releases that keep us all busy, pleasantly surprised and musically satisfied.
Trio Celeste (www.trioceleste.com) – Navona Records, 2016.
Beethoven – Piano Trio in G Major, Op 1, No. 2. Constellations: Variations on a Theme by Beethoven – music by Eugene Drucker, Mike Block, Eric Guinivan, Peter Erskine, Paul Dooley, Fred Hersch, Samuel Adler, Jim Scully, Christina Spinei and Pierre Jalbert. Antonín Dvořák– Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90, “Dumky.” Engineers: Jesse Lewis and Kyle Pyke.