Junction Trio

October 29 2023

We took in a chamber music recital at Stanford’s Bing Center tonight with the Junction Trio, with the Beethoven Archduke Trio as the star of the show. In addition, they played John Zorn’s Ghosts and Charles Ives’ Piano Trio.

The three performers are Conrad Tao (piano), Stefan Jackiw (violin), and Jay Campbell (cello). Of the three, I’m most familiar with Jackiw, and almost entirely through his sublime performance of the Korngold Violin Concerto on youtube. I had also heard of Conrad Tao from his performances on NPR’s From the Top.

One nice little touch is that all three performers took a turn speaking to the audience. First, Campbell spoke about Zorn’s Ghosts, which opened the program. The piece is heavily inspired by Beethoven’s Ghost piano trio, with supposedly many of the same chords. I have to admit, I could not hear the likeness.

Tao did a brief interlude by introducing the three performers, then Jackiw spent some time introducing the Ives (interestingly enough, there was no introduction for the Beethvoen, probably because most audience members are already very familiar with it). The Ives is a very eccentric piece. It is atonal and modern in one breath, and then deeply romantic in another. It was a bit hard to grasp the structure of the piece. But like many other Ives experiences I’ve had, it was enjoyable but not necessarily memorable.

I purchased the tickets mainly for the Beethoven. It really is a wonderful piece, quintessentially Beethoven in how effortless the melodies and harmonies are. This is a piece that I don’t listen to very often, but it immediately sounds familiar and, in Leondard Bernstein’s words, inevitable. My feeling coming out of the piece was an intense desire to go sightread the whole thing (alas, there wasn’t enough time or enough musical ability for that). The one slightly odd thing about the piece that I noticed live is just how many different codas there are, almost like Beethoven didn’t quite know how to end it.

The three musicians are all wonderful, and the Beethoven made it obvious how aligned they are in their ensemble. Tempi changes were made effortlessly, dynamic ranges were wide, and styles were very consistent. The performance was not without flaw - there were small mistakes here and there, which are to be expected in a live performance. But they accomplished one of my main goals of attending live performances, which is to leave the concert hall invigorated and satisfied.

Topics: MusicMusic:Concerts

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