Faculty piano trio gifts community with powerful array of pieces

One of Geneseo’s newest musical groups, the Geneseo Piano Trio, treated the community to a concert on Sunday Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. in Doty Recital Hall. The Trio, who keeps the tradition of chamber-music-in-residence alive at the college, performed three multi-movement works by Mozart, Shostakovich and Debussy. Debuting in November 2015, this faculty group is comprised of visiting assistant professor of violin Andrew Bergevin on violin, lecturer of music James Kirkwood on cello and professor of music Jonathan Gonder on piano.

The performance was dedicated to music listening, as there were no external elements apart from some context that was provided in the program. For the concert, the performance included just three musicians on stage, doing what they do best.

This minimalism allowed the audience to interpret each piece individually, with some even choosing to close their eyes and bow their heads in order to focus on the sounds. Others, however, decided to never take their eyes off of the flying bows on stage.

First up was Mozart’s “Piano Trio in G major, KV 564,” which was a “generally sunny” and playful three-movement piece. Although the emphasis tended to fall on the piano’s melodies, there was an accenting synchronization of the violin and cello throughout.

The collaboration between these three musicians was so seamless that the audience could fall away from the present reality and perhaps imagine Elizabeth Bennet spurning Mr. Darcy at one of Austen’s famous social dances.

Then, in a complete change of tone, the Trio performed Shostakovich’s four-movement “Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Opus 67.” Immediately “chilling,” this piece began with a short cello solo of long, scratchy strokes.

A product of the Soviet Communist demand for nationalism and patriotism, Shostakovich’s piece reflects the destruction of World War II with impressive piano octaves, string plucking and staccato notes. With its powerful urgency and quiet foreboding, this piece conjures up visions of winter blizzards and dangerous conflict.

The Trio finished the concert with Debussy’s “Trio in G major, L.3.” The four movements in this piece seemingly combined the previous two works, as it follows Shostakovich’s power and Mozart’s playfulness. One of Debussy’s earlier efforts, this piece is almost unrecognizable as the composer’s own, although—as Bergevin pointed out—bits of Debussy’s usual “elfin lightness” can still be detected.

The final movement of this piece lived up to its name, “Appassionato,” as it served as a wonderful finale of the entire performance. After tugging between intensity and gentleness, the piece seems to finally decide upon a powerful passion. It brought together the lighthearted dance of the first piece and the urgent storm of the second.

But it doesn’t matter how you individually interpreted these pieces, as one thing is for certain—the Geneseo community is lucky to have such brilliantly talented musicians to comfort us on dreary Sunday afternoons.