Sunday at The Wallis with Zukerman Trio

By Truman C. Wang

In its new 2016/17 season, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills continues to program innovative works and introduce fine new classical musicians who otherwise would not get heard.   Last Sunday evening was the Zukerman Trio, playing two Russian works with happy dance music and a Schubert that's full of songful melodies.   Among the highlights, it was memorable for making late 19th-Century Russian music actually seem fun to hear on a lazy Sunday evening.  

At first glance, the 7 Pieces for violin and cello duo by Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) appear to be a normal suite of 7 Baroque dances, but a closer look reveals them to be a collection of miniatures from different periods of music history – Scherzo (Classical), Prelude, Intermezzo, Berceuse, Impromptu, Canzonetta (Romantic) and Gavotte (French Baroque), although they’re delightful miniatures nonetheless.    Violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth played these lyrical morsels with obvious relish and enjoyment, giving each piece an air of authenticity it deserves – the Berceuse a gently rollicking boat song, the Gavotte a sprightly French court dance, the Intermezzo an Italian love song, and so on. 

Dimitri Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 was dedicated to the composer’s best friend Ivan Sollertinsky who had died unexpectedly.  The dark, somber first three movements of the Trio gave way to boisterous klezmer music in the final movement, a joyful celebration of his Jewish friend’s life.  Canadian pianist Angela Cheng joined Zukerman and Forsyth in the Trio, playing with great sensitivity in the dark movements and joyful brilliance in the Jewish dance music.  This work is one of the few dedicated to a music critic. (Another is Elgar’s Piano Quintet, dedicated to the English music critic Ernest Newman.)

Following a brief intermission, the evening concluded with a Schubertiade, a sunny account of the Piano Trio in B-flat Major D.898 played with infectious enthusiasm by all three musicians.

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