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In performance: Capuçon-Angelich Trio

Web-only review:

Capuçon-Angelich Trio echoes past performance in DC recital
by Charles T. Downey

If well-played chamber music is like an engaging conversation, the capacity audience at La Maison Française on Tuesday night was witness to an intense tête-à-tête-à-tête. The trio of the Capuçon brothers and pianist Nicholas Angelich played with an edgy buzz reminiscent of their 2008 Kennedy Center concert, perhaps because two-thirds of the program was exactly the same.
(read more after the jump)

While violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon have enjoyed a meteoric rise to notoriety, it was Angelich who impressed the most in this concert. The trio played Haydn's G major "alla Ungarese" trio (Hob. XV:25) with disarming simplicity. Angelich's agile hands provided sparkling diversion in the piece's extensive Rococo decoration, especially in the exceedingly fast final movement, based on Hungarian folk style.

A devastating rendition of Shostakovich's second piano trio, composed in response to the death of the composer's friend Ivan Sollertinsky, was the program's emotional high point. Gautier's tendency toward blue-note, slightly off intonation worked best here in the precarious cello harmonics of the anguished first movement. While the second movement had an appropriately driven, bloodthirsty quality, it was the deliberate, almost heavy-footed final movement, a leaden danse macabre that grudgingly resolved to major, that was most striking.

The only change from the 2008 program was to replace Mendelssohn with Brahms, to whom the trio, in various combinations, has been devoted in the last few years, including a recording of the complete piano trios for the Virgin Classics label. The second trio (C major, op. 87) had a fluttery hummingbird scherzo and a slow movement full of suppressed yearning. Only in the fuller passages did one wish that Angelich would be less restrained and instead indulge the full textures and booming bass of Brahms's piano part.

-- Charles T. Downey

By Anne Midgette  |  February 4, 2010; 1:14 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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