CAMA (Community Arts Music Association) starts the new year with a Masterseries concert by the venerable, irreplaceable Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (Joseph Kalichstein on piano, Jaime Laredo on violin and Sharon Robinson on cello) at 8 p.m. Saturday in the newly renewed Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.
The program contains Franz Schubert's Notturno in Eb-Major, Opus 148 (D. 897), Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 2 in C-Minor, Opus 66 and Johannes Brahms' Piano Trio in B-Major, Opus 8 (1854, revised 1891).
The triangle is said to be the most stable of figures, yet the musical triangle known as a piano trio tends to be just the opposite. Egoism must be there, but so must be self-transcendence. The balance is delicate, to say the least. Nevertheless, the richness of the piano trio literature is a constant inducement for new ensembles to form.
With the exception of the Beaux Arts Trio, I can't think of of a single piano-violin-cello ensemble of any duration which, ultimately, has been neither a backup band for one of the members (usually the violinist) or a "super group" of players who already have considerable reputations as soloists. The greatest of the latter, the Heifetz-Rubinstein-Piatigorsky Trio, was all but exclusively a recording phenomenon — their individual schedules precluded tours or a concert series — and even so managed to record, so far as I can tell, just three trios — by Ravel, Mendelssohn, and Tchaikovsky — before moving on.
(The men were not torn apart by personal conflicts or aversion to chamber music: Rubinstein and Heifetz had formed a trio and made several recordings with the great cellist, Emmanuel Feuermann, whose death at age 40 at the hands of an incompetent surgeon — Toscanini wept and called it "murder" — so shattered Heifetz that it was seven years before he would play with another cellist. After the second trio dissolved, Heifetz and Piatigorsky continued to perform together, forming the core of a ad-hoc chamber music association, until Piatigorsky's death in 1976, while Rubinstein went on to collaborate spectacularly with the Guarneri Quartet.)
To be sure, Joseph Kalichstein, Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson enjoy much greater renown as a trio than as individual soloists: The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. Since their debut at the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter in 1977 — they are the longest-lasting chamber music ensemble with all their original members — they have spread the gospel of the piano trio far and wide and have become a watchword for harmonious collaboration and brilliant, poetic interpretation.
My discovery of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio was serendipitous and profound. For my sins, I found myself exiled in rural Michigan, 1977-84, with a large vinyl collection but no turntable. In those days, public radio broadcast a lot of live-recorded concerts, and I began to tape them. One of the tapes I made was of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio performing the Brahms trio they will play this Saturday evening.
To say it was a revelation is both a cliche and an understatement. It caused me to revise, drastically, my feelings about Brahms, and to exalt the position of his chamber music in his catalogue of works. I can now get along very well without his orchestral music, but am completely addicted to his chamber opera. And though I have heard many ensembles play this trio since then, none of them matches the emotional grandeur and technical mastery of that by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.
Tickets to this concert are $33 and $43, and they can be purchased at the Lobero box office at 805.963.0761 or online by clicking here.