February 3, 2012
The evening’s greatest rewards came in the finale, Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-Flat Major (Op. 100). Wonderfully tuneful, but also containing generous helpings of repeated material, this is a work that can seem merely repetitious if it doesn’t get an inspired performance. This time it did. Ehnes joined cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Adam Neiman, two longtime festival regulars, in a performance in which almost every phrase was eloquent and remarkable. This was a reading in which each detail had been thought out, right down to every shift in dynamics and every strategic little pause before the resumption of a given melody.
Schubert made relentless demands on the pianist, with repeated chromatic scalar passages up and down the keyboard. Neiman handled them all with panache, bringing down the volume level to splendid effect in some of the quieter melodic passages as the two other players followed suit. Neiman made the piano really sparkle.
This was a performance, in fact, with three great musicians at the top of their game. Tsang has never sounded better, playing with a newer and more expressive freedom. Ehnes’ patrician playing, elegantly phrased and beautifully nuanced, set the tone for an incisive, high-energy performance.
“I was only going to go to the opening performance,” said one concertgoer as the crowds poured out of the hall.
“But now I want to hear them all.”
By Melinda Bargreen