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In performance: Diaz Trio

Web-only review:

Diaz Trio offers high-class fun, dreary Rochberg
by Robert Battey

The Diaz Trio, though hardly a full-time ensemble (not even a website!), is the country's only top-level professional string trio, and thus the Library of Congress hosted them last Thursday night. Informal in dress and deportment, and less than fully polished, the group gave energetic readings of the Dohnányi Serenade and the Beethoven G major trio.
(read more after the jump)

Guest pianist Rodrigo Ojeda joined violinist Andrés Cárdenes (the concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) in a good-faith performance of George Rochberg's violin sonata, commissioned by the Library's McKim Fund in the late 1980's. Likely it was the programming of this work that led to the Trio's engagement; I can't imagine that Cárdenes has this dreary piece in his limited recital repertoire. A large, four-movement essay, the Sonata is not a failure, but neither is it compelling in any way. It sets forth one texture at a time -- agitato, doloroso, whatever -- stays like that for a while, and then switches. The music is rarely developing or "becoming" anything; it's just a string of well-crafted episodes. If there was any thematic unity to the narrative, it escaped these ears.

In the trios, the three players (each a true virtuoso) went their own way, creating a frisson of excitement when everything aligned. Violist Roberto Diaz (former principal violist of the National Symphony) was especially impressive, since he now has a full-time job running the Curtis Institute. There was no rust whatever on his administrator fingers; the sound poured out with confidence and élan. Perhaps more rehearsal would have led to a cleaner performance, but hearing artists of this caliber (the third member is cellist Andres Diaz) up close is still fun.

-- Robert Battey

By Anne Midgette  |  December 14, 2009; 12:23 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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“Likely it was the programming of this work [by George Rochberg] that led to the Trio's engagement …”

-- Robert Battey, Washington Post

I certainly miss the days when music reviews in the Washington Post were edited for factuality and clarity.

I wasn’t able to attend this concert, but I wonder whether the program cover -- or the second page of the program -- may have contained the following words:

“Concert given under the auspices of the McKim Fund, Library of Congress”

I see nothing wrong with the administrators of the music trust funds at the Library of Congress – such as the Koussevitzky and McKim music trust funds – having some say over repeat performances of works earlier commissioned under the auspices of their donors. [Koussevitzky commissions are most often premiered away from the Library of Congress, and are often not given at the LoC until years later. The administrators and programmers of the Smithsonian Freer Gallery concerts themselves have no say over the content of their Musicians from Marlboro concerts, which are programmed out of New York City.]

I also applaud the LoC administrators and two of the invited musicians – Diaz and pianist Andrew Tyson -- for performing the wonderful Ernest Bloch Suite for Viola and Piano, commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, in the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge hall at 6:30 PM. I think that this “alternative classical programming" (like noontime concerts at the National Gallery of Art) is a nice cultural ‘treat’ or “appetizer” for some of the thousands of National Library and Capitol Hill employees who perhaps can’t stay for an 8 PM full chamber concert.


Posted by: snaketime1 | December 14, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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