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Posted at 2:31 PM ET, 11/15/2010

In performance: Trio Cavatina

By Robert Battey

Trio Cavatina, in its local debut at the Barns of Wolf Trap last Friday night, offered an unusual program of mostly women composers. The repertoire certainly ran the gamut, though not in a completely good way.

The opening work, Clara Schumann’s Trio in G minor, was a faded Victorian relic. The contrast/confrontation of disparate materials that drives large-scale musical structures was minimized; everything was well-behaved and a little tedious. Modulations took place but never jarred. It was an intriguing choice to then bookend the concert with Robert Schumann’s final trio, in the same key. This is among his weaker pieces, full of discursive repetitions of themes that themselves sound recycled. And still it was everything his wife’s trio was not; surging, at times violent, and full of fantasy, the ghostly slow movement looking ahead to Mahler.

In between were works by Augusta Read Thomas and a Mexican composer new to me, Gabriela Ortiz Torres. Thomas’s rigorous expressionism, often tempered by fleeting moments of quasi-tonality, has made her a respected and influential composer. The group offered two short pieces of hers on extra-terrestrial themes, “Moon Jig” and “… A Circle Around the Sun…” The former was more severe and atonal; the latter, in a more accessible vein, began like an astronomy film soundtrack which then morphed into faster material. Torres’s piece, “Trifolium,” was an engaging study of sharply contrasting textures, from icy stasis to frenetic sprints; her jazzy and folk-like voice recalled György Ligeti and Alberto Ginastera, but in a fresh mash-up that carried the ear along. Good stuff.

Trio Cavatina was formed only five years ago. I applaud the boldness of their offbeat programming, but unless they intend to specialize, they will need to eventually put themselves out there in the iconic classics to be properly judged in a highly competitive genre. On the basis of this performance, one would say the strings are more than competent, but tonally unremarkable, while the pianist is both lively and sensitive.

--Robert Battey

By Robert Battey  | November 15, 2010; 2:31 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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