Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio at the Terrace Theater
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 01:56PM
Stephen Brookes

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • March 1, 2014

Can we just be done with it, and declare the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio the greatest piano trio on the face of the earth?  Sure, there are other worthy groups out there.  But as they showed on Thursday night at the Terrace Theater, the KLR players — together now for an astonishing 37 years — have outpaced the competition in everything from effortless virtuosity to striking originality, and perhaps most of all in the intimate democracy of their ensemble work.  The thinking person’s piano trio, in every way.  

Take, for instance, their impeccable reading of Beethoven’s “Trio in G major, Op. 1, No. 2” which opened the evening.  Beethoven was only 22 when he wrote it, and it’s among his most purely enjoyable pieces, full of the intricate but playful writing that fills the ears (these ears, anyway) with joy.  But the KLR players took the work beyond its surface pleasures, exploring a deep and sometimes dark current that ran from the opening Adagio to the elegant fury of the Finale, and gave the music a huge sense of scale.   A stunning reading, perfectly balanced and rigorously thought out, yet bursting with spontaneity.  

Andre Previn wrote his Piano Trio No. 2 for the KLR players in 2011, and it’s what you might expect from this most cosmopolitain of composers:  a sophisticated, richly-imagined tapestry that draws effortlessly from jazz, hard-edged modernism, Broadway show tunes and stops in between.  It’s steeped in 20th Century angst — ergo, serious — and it’s impossible not to admire Previn’s ability to slide seamlessly from one style to the next.  Yet, despite a sure-footed performance that left the brain cells jumping, the work seemed mostly to be about Previn himself — a display of compositional virtuosity.

If Previn’s work didn’t always touch the heart, Mendelssohn’s “Trio in C minor, Op. 66” grabbed it with both hands and refused to let go.  You could power a small city with the explosive force of this work, and the KLR players gave it a spectacular, almost intoxicating performance, from the darkly playful little Scherzo to the earthy, near-physical punch of the Finale.  A bravura performance, capped to huge applause with a light, well-chosen encore: the Gypsy Rondo from Haydn’s Trio No.  39 in G major.

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