Bargemusic‘s Masterworks Series presented a stunning program of chamber music by Brahms over the weekend, featuring three gifted musicians at the top of their games.
Violinist Mark Peskanov is the Artistic Director of Bargemusic, the floating concert venue moored off the historic Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn. On stage he’s a force of nature to rival the wind and water that rocked the barge during the early part of the concert. The program opened with the “Sonatensatz” Scherzo in C minor from the F.A.E. Sonata for violin and piano (WoO posth. 2). Peskanov’s warm, singing tone fused with glittering clarity from the hands of pianist Marika Bournaki (subject of the award-winning documentary I Am Not a Rock Star), lighting up the fiery march rhythms and melancholy trio section of the brief showpiece.
After that bracing appetizer, Peskanov yielded the floor to cellist Julian Schwarz, whose remarkable outward serenity belies his young age and, I suspect, helped him convincingly convey the first movement’s complex, charged emotions. In this quintessentially Brahmsian masterpiece of melody, Schwarz and Bournaki’s long association became apparent. The two musicians flowed, rose, moderated, almost breathed as one, Schwarz’s 1743 Gagliano cello soaring richly in the midrange, piping sweetly in the upper.
The gypsy-ish minuet-like second movement with its spirited dance rhythms and sparkling trio section was a light-hearted delight, perfectly setting up the soaring finale with its insistent three-against-two patterns and forceful yet graceful unison passages. Locked together in unexaggerated rubatos, the duo made it all look easy.
After an intermission, Peskanov joined Schwarz and Bournaki for Brahms’s Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8. The unabashed romanticism of the first movement demands both perfect balance among the musicians and sonic space for their individual personalities to shine. The three achieved all this with apparent ease through the many rhythmic changes of the development, the racing triplet figures, and the ineffably beautiful main theme, while bringing a full, almost electric ensemble sound to the agitated passages.
The Scherzo movement grounds a sense of play in a sober bed, and the musicians joined forces here in what felt like a grand game of high stakes, while also getting the childlike spirit of the slow section just right. Then they took us on a haunting journey through the third movement’s somber, sometimes eerie mood, peaceful cadences, and gently swelling harmonies.
Finally the rolling arpeggios of the rhythmic finale sent an energized audience back out to the waterfront full of summertime gladness.