By Truman C. Wang
The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, as its name suggests, is made up of three highly accomplished musicians in their own right who nonetheless mesh well together as a group. Since 1977, they have performed to critical acclaims the old and new piano trio repertoire, sometimes outshone by newer, younger groups but seemed to have outlasted most of them in the last 40 years. They do not have a catchy, PR-friendly name like “Beaux Arts” or “Eroica”, but judging from their performance on January 26 at Beverly Hills’ Wallis Annenberg Center, their unabashedly romantic yet intimate style was what made it memorable, not a catchy name.
The immediate impression one got upon first hearing was the Trio’s big, brash Romantic sounds, none of that vibrato-free, authentic-period-performance stuff going on here. The early Beethoven Trio, Op. 11 that would have sounded classically Haydnesque in other hands was raging, hard-driven in the Allegro con brio and romantically dreamy in the Adagio, and did not relax until the playful Theme-and-nine-variations finale. But a tone of seriousness invaded even there.
The Trio’s big sounds were doubly amplified in the intimate acoustics of the Wallis auditorium, making the wistful Mendelssohn C-minor Trio No. 2 sound more forceful (at the expense of the filigreed passagework in the less-than-magical Scherzo) and the large-scaled Brahms B-major Trio, Op. 8 positively heroic. By the end of the Brahms Trio, it became amply clear that violinist Jaime Laredo was the anchor of the group, always sounding even-footed and even-tempered, while pianist Joseph Kalichstein and cellist Sharon Robinson (playing a 1717 “Fleming Strad”) provided emotive and colorful contributions. Other Trios may have more clarity of dialog or more suavity of expression, but none has more drama than the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.
The lovely encore, Gershwin’s “Summertime”, was like a welcome breeze of perfumed air that sent the audience home in a happy mood.