Trio's Virtuosity Rings True For 20 Years

Chamber ensembles seem to be a dime a dozen these days, with many coming and going like the flash of a meteor shower.

Not so the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this season. It is one of the few internationally acclaimed ensembles still retaining all its founding members: pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo, and cellist Sharon Robinson. Though all have active solo performing careers, the intimacy of ensemble playing retains a special allure. They have performed as a trio throughout North America, Asia, Latin America, and Europe every season since their debut at the inauguration of President Carter in 1977.

Longevity aside, the group is notable for its musical expressiveness and depth, which is clearly evident on its latest CD, "Legacies" (Arabesque Recordings). As at home with the thorny complexities of contemporary music as with Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, the trio has devoted its latest recording (and much of its touring season) to the music of our time.

"Legacies" features four very different and highly appealing works, all commissioned especially for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, by Pulitzer Prize-winners Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Leon Kirchner, Estonian mystic Arvo Part, and Stanley Silverman, best known as a composer for film and theater. Challenging yet accessible, "Legacies" stands as a model of 20th-century compositional craft and diversity.

It also acts as a showcase for the trio's virtuosity, versatility, and sensitivity. Clarity and precision are on display in Zwilich's vibrant trio, with insistent chromatic cells exploding into bravura flourishes in the work's knockout opening Allegro. The players give a luminous, ethereal grace to Part's strangely haunting Adagio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, a reworking of the Adagio from Mozart's Sonata in F Major (K. 280) for piano.

Kirchner's moving trio is performed with an emotional urgency and expressive warmth that imparts an almost Romantic quality. And the trio plays Silverman's eclectic, jazz-inflected "In Celebration" with a spirited, stylistic panache few classical groups could manage.

The trio is also celebrating its anniversary by giving 42 concerts in 25 cities, including the New York premire of Zwilich's Triple Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony and the world premire of David Ott's Triple Concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony.

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