Nélida Nassar 02.09.2016
Classical music is best experienced live, but some artists are particularly great in concert. Violinist Daniela Cammarano, cellist Luca Magariello and pianist Fausto Di Benedetto in their second recital together as a trio, proved the case in an all Schubert’s evening. Their performance and their first visit to Lebanon part of the Antonine University Concerts Series in Notre Dame des Semences Chapel, made a convincing argument for the ability of brilliantly played chamber music to transfix and excite, soothe and inspire. It was clear that this young trio – that is still without a group’s name – is special because they make chamber music so deeply engaging and wonderfully entertaining.
The concert started with Schubert’s Trio in Si Bémol Major, D28 a single-movement ‘Sonatensatz’ marked Allegro – the composer’s designation – was written when Schubert was just 15. He was in self-consolatory mode and D28 was his immediate response to losing his treble voice, and with it his place in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel Choir. It reflects the despondent teenager’s determination to lift his spirits. It is an early piece with apparent influences not surprisingly more in the manner of Haydn or Mozart than it is the forerunner of anything we might think of as peculiarly Shubertian.
The soloists’s performance felt a bit like watching three master ballroom dancers anticipating one another’s every turn and twirl. They seemed to share an intimate understanding of where each note fit into the progression of the splendidly played piece, cuing one another with animated facial expressions. They revealed great insight, lyricism and charm. Their affection for the music was palpable throughout the small sanctuary as they gave the piece a robust reading. Magariello diving into his instrument’s deep end for some soulfully sonorous bowing before the trio brought the work to a swirling, stormy climax.
But it was the concert’s second piece Schubert – Notturno in E flat major, Op. 148, D897 – so titled by the publisher – that demonstrated the depth of interpretive understanding that these instrumentalists brought to music for violin, cello and piano. The lone D897 was the original slow movement of the Trio in B flat major, D898 that the three played following the Notturno. Schubert’s reasons for its eventual replacement remain unclear, but the work now stands alone most effectively as an entity of sustained melody and tranquillity.
The trio conveyed the unusual rhythmic character the piece possess. Cammarano and Magariello’s pizzicati cascaded forward through the bar of their string instruments. Di Benedetto rolled his piano chords, only to suddenly halt each time. Legend has it that the character of this Adagio comes from a folk tune Schubert heard one day while vacationing to the rural east of Salzburg. The players expressed exuberance, one might even say ecstasy, that was not at all lacking in the faster contrasting sections. It was followed by a modulation that was foreshadowed by a brief but passionate harmonic sequence earlier on in the piece before the trio thrust and parried their way to a gripping conclusion.
The magnificent Piano Trio in B flat major, D898 in four movements – Allegro moderato, Andante un poco mosso, Scherzo: Allegro, and Rondo: Allegro vivace, Presto – one of Schubert’s greatest masterpieces closed the evening. Of all the large-scale works of his last years, D898 is one that reflects the popular image of the carefree, companionable composer, pouring out a stream of spontaneous melody. From its soaring opening theme to the sublimated echoes of Viennese popular tune in the finale, the music exudes life-affirming energy.
The trio’s rendering was full of passionate intensity and solid artistic partnership. Cammarano and Magariello proved themselves to be each one of today’s most interesting and accomplished violinists and cellists, pouring out beautifully shaped phrases throughout a wide dynamic range. The Andante un poco moose movement in particular was beautifully shaped, subtle, and elegantly unforced. Schubert’s music is a forum for intensely personal virtuosity, and the trio’s performance used inventiveness as a means to get to the core of this profoundly intimate music. They delivered it with empathy, not just for the composer’s intention, but also for each other’s contribution to the work.
Playing with conviction and authority, with a lot of life in their cohesive sound and the utter technical security, the trio made the recital look easy. At the keyboard in this very pianistic score, Di Benedetto was perfectly in step with his duo partners. They started, stopped and negotiated melodic lines in a remarkable accord, playing expressively with immense freedom. The ovation they earned was particularly warm. Audiences tend to be grateful when music is performed in such spectacular fashion. It was an evening of distinguished music-making with this young very promising virtuoso trio.
The memorable Antonine University’s Concerts Series would benefit from an investment in a quality and better sounding piano. Cammarano performed on a Bella Rosa’s violin and Magariello on a French anonymous cello.