Thursday, February 6, 2003

Claremont brims with exuberance

Concert review

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Claremont Trio is on to something. The young group, which includes twin sisters Emily (violin) and Julia (cello) Bruskin and pianist Donna Kwong, approach 18th century chamber music with twentysomething energy.

There were occasional intonation glitches scattered throughout their performance Tuesday at Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music - one in a series of concerts by the Cincinnati Chamber Music Society - but those were overshadowed by the trio's passionate, cohesive playing.

Their exuberant performance and gutsy repertoire, featuring works by Beethoven, Bedrich Smetana and Mason Bates, was the kind of fresh approach that keeps chamber music alive.

Strong timing

From the opening measures of Beethoven's Trio in E flat Major, Op.1, No. 1, the group proved they have a strong, almost innate, sense of timing.

Julia Bruskin's cello playing was especially effective in slower movements like "Adagio cantabile," in which her tone was warm, deep and passionate. She and her sister are both emotive players, while Kwong's temperate, poised playing helped bring their energy together.

Composer Bates, 25, is working on his doctorate in composition at the University of California, Berkeley. He was at CCM Tuesday, explaining to the one-third filled hall his String Band, as Kwong put objects like screws and erasers in strategic places in the piano.

He said the objects helped the piano do what strings can do: "play in the places between the notes."

Bluegrass sound

String Band evokes a bluegrass sound - with the players sliding into their notes. The result was a thrilling performance of enormous slides up and down the fingerboards. The Bruskins' creative, edgy playing was more obvious - and perhaps more effective - here than during the Beethoven.

A warm and tenderly played violin solo opened the concert's finale, Smetana's Trio in G for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 15. The recognizable theme gives all three musicians significant solo time.

Smetana wrote the piece as a memorial to his 4-year-old daughter who died of scarlet fever. The trio ably conveyed the various stages of grief, the lighthearted days of childhood and the sadness of a funeral.

It was the evening's strongest performance, the kind that could fill the house.


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