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Prometheus Trio Presents Stunning Works for Piano

Classical Preview

Dec. 1, 2010
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Of the several hundred works composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), there are but six piano trios. He first entered the field in 1776, returned with two more a decade later, and added a final three in 1788. For their next concert, the Prometheus Trio has selected the second from the last: Piano Trio in C Major, K. 548.

Far more sophisticated than the earlier works, the final three (including K. 548) provide a more prominent place for the violin, an increased role for the cello, an elaborate piano part, and a slow movement that carries the trio’s greatest weight in both length and profundity. Though Mozart intended his final trios as income-generating devices, thus gauging them for amateur musician score-buyers, K. 548 is nevertheless perfectly adept and fully entertaining as a professional concert piece.

Of the nearly 400 compositions by Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959), chamber music only accounts for 60; and though his orchestral works are better known, he once said: “I am always more myself in pure chamber music.” The Czech composer lived in Paris from 1923 to 1940, soaking in a wide range of influences—Stravinsky, Roussel and jazz were all the rage. Many of his chamber works of these years were brief studies, such as his Piano Trio No. 1, which Martinu dubbed Cinq Pices Brves (1930)—a work he regarded as a watershed in terms of his contrapuntal abilities.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was one of the greatest pianists of all time and the last truly great composer in the Russian Romantic tradition. His Trio Élégiaque in G Minor (1892) is a concise, single-movement work that fully reflects both Rachmaninoff’s indebtedness to Tchaikovsky and the deep well of Slavic melancholy from which Rachmaninoff oft dipped his musical bucket.

The known works of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) reach into the four digits, thus highlights or “greatest hits” from this vast catalog are truly that. One of these is Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004 (1720) for solo violin, from which The Prometheus Trio has selected a trio arrangement of its Chaconne finale—the most intellectually powerful single movement ever devised for a stringed instrument. Consisting of 64 stunning variants upon its stark opening phrase, the Chaconne encompasses every aspect of contrapuntal ingenuity known in its day.

The Prometheus Trio performs all of the above-mentioned works at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on Dec. 6-7.

The holiday spirit rings forth in the Basilica of St. Josaphat, where the Bel Canto Chorus presents “Christmas in the Basilica” on Dec. 4-5. The program consists of traditional carols and hymns (O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Ave Maria, etc.) as well as the Shepherd’s Pipe Carol (1975) by British composer, choral conductor and music scholar John Rutter (b. 1945). This concert features the Bel Canto Chorus, Bel Canto Boy Choir and the Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble.


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