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The Amelia Trio: East Meets West

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • March 17, 2008

The musical boundaries between East and West have been bashed away at for so long it’s sometimes hard to tell where they are, anymore. From the orientalisme of early 20th Century France to the postmodern work of composers like Tan Dun and Zhou Long, the border has long been a breeding ground for new ideas, and on Saturday evening, the gifted young Amelia Piano Trio (as part of the Dumbarton Concerts series in Georgetown) presented a program called “East Meets West” that explored this music with a playful sense of adventure.

amelia.jpgLong thought to be lost, Debussy’s early Piano Trio in G Major was recently reconstructed from fragments, and has emerged as an engaging if frustrating work: while full of his characteristic sensuality and passion, it lacks the subtle, translucent lightness of his mature work. Beautifully played by the Amelia, it showed traces of Asia here and there, but never really approached the near-perfect orientalism of later works like "Pagodes."

The next work was more of a stretch.  Mozart was all of eight years old when he wrote his Sonata in F major, K. 7, and it won’t ever rank as one of mankind’s most glorious achievements -- even when arranged for violin, cello and the two-stringed Chinese violin called the erhu. Wang Guowei turned in a flavorful account of this odd little curiosity, and for what-the-hell programming it was pleasant enough (especially since it was over before you could say “Wolfgang – drink your milk and go to bed”).

But a more organic blending took place in the world premiere of “Scenes Through a Window” by the Chinese-American composer Lu Pei.  Written for piano trio, erhu and the traditional lute called the pipa, it’s an extremely smart, colorful and kinetic work that builds on traditional Chinese music without ever descending into sentimentality; utterly graceful playing on the pipa by Yihan Chen made it even more delectable.

The evening closed with a sweeping reading of Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor, an early trans-cultural masterpiece which draws on a popular Basque folk dance, Malaysian verse forms, and styles from the Baroque. The Amelia brought it off with exceptional clarity and elegance – a memorable performance of a work much too rarely heard.

Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 11:07AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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