An ensemble that’s truly in sync not only phrases together but seems to breathe together. Orchestral musicians lock into the conductor’s rhythmic flow and directorial vision, but with a small chamber ensemble such as a trio, there’s neither an obvious leader nor constant eye contact. Togetherness that feels organic is one of the marks of a fine group.
Wednesday night, at one of its first concerts, the Gloriosa Trio played as if the musicians had been together for years. This was all the more impressive given the variety on the program; while it had a theme – dance – it jumped centuries and styles, beginning with two pieces by Astor Piazzolla. Driven by lush violin-and-cello unison melodies and a swelling crescendo, a lovely arrangement of “Oblivion” felt fuller than the brain imagines three musicians can sound. The hot staccato bursts of “La Muerte del Angel” enveloped a romantic interlude before hurtling to a fire-and-brimstone conclusion that well illustrated the trio’s name: “Gloriosa” is the botanical term for the flame lily.
Pianist Yoonie Han, violinist Jennifer Carsillo, and cellist Arnold Choi then took us From Argentina to Spain for a convincing rendition of Joaquín Turina‘s Piano Trio No. 2. The first movement sounded appropriately lush and full-throated, while in the skittish “Molto vivace” second, a fast showpiece in an oddball time signature, the music suggested Bartokian rhythms as the players navigated the bright, tricky rhythms with spirited assurance. I’d never heard this modernistic and flavorful three-movement work in concert before. This performance made it clear why it has remained popular since its composition in 1933.
The program closed with Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op. 97, the “Archduke” Trio. Of course it is not a programmatic work, but in keeping with the evening’s theme the performance made a good case that Beethoven was, as Carsillo put it, “dancing in his head.” It also displays the compositional daring of the composer’s late middle period. Interrupting and then merging with the Scherzo’s nimble waltz rhythm is a weird, somber chromatic section, one of those “No, he didn’t…Wait, how did he do that?” sequences that help make Beethoven’s work such an endlessly rich study.
The Andante and the finale both gave the musicians excellent opportunities to display their fluency as a unit. In the classical piano trio literature, the piano often takes the rhythmic lead, in effect the role of a conductor, because of its capacity for percussive polyphony. Here Carsillo and Choi followed Han’s phrasing and micro-adjustments in tempo flawlessly. (I’m always especially impressed by this ability in a cellist, who in a piano trio configuration can’t even see the pianist unless he turns around.)
The trio was formed originally for a single concert, which occurred just the other day at the Flagler Museum. But already there have now been two New York City concerts, and a spring residency is planned at the University of North Florida. Based on what I heard at Wednesday night’s house concert, I feel sure we’re to hear many more glorious sounds from the Gloriosa Trio.