Haydn, Mozart, Gürkan, Mendelssohn, Léhar, Stolz, Strauß II, Strauß I
Starved for live music, I went to a concert that might not normally have been on my radar. A group from Vienna, the Color Trio (a piano trio plus soprano) was being heavily promoted by the Austrian Embassy as part of a cultural exchange. The program looked nice, actually, so off I went.
Oddly, I think I was the only foreigner in the hall (the concert hall of a music middle school not far from my office). They also performed only about half of the advertised program (no, I did not leave at intermission, they handed out revised programs which contained half of the works from the first half of the advertised program and half from the second, all over in a bit more than an hour). In all, compared to the Austrian Embassy’s hype, this experience was a bit of a let down. The musicians had no special quality, although hearing reasonable live music in Tirana added something.
The concert opened with Haydn’s Gypsy Trio, which got its name from the themes used in the third movement. It took until that movement for the musicians to fully warm up. Then followed an aria from Mozart’s Figaro, sung in Germanic Italian by the soprano Petra Halper-König. The trio’s violinist, Serkan Gürkan, then performed one of his own compositions, “Mein Wien,” accompanied by the pianist Ilse Schumann – a work which started and ended with music reminiscent of a melancholy rain and danced around a little in the middle section, so I suppose indeed the composer’s impression of Vienna. Cellist Irene Frank then returned to join Gürkan and Schumann for the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio #1, a much more robust work that allowed the musicians to fill the hall with sound. This Mendelssohn piece was certainly the highlight of the evening.
A selection of other Austrian pieces were supposed to round out the concert’s first half, but vanished from the program. The original second half of the program was to contain a selection of Viennese dance and operetta music arranged for trio (with soprano, as necessary). In the end, only five works remained: Ferenc Lehar’s Gold and Silver Waltz, an operetta aria by Robert Stolz (“Spiel auf deiner Geige” from Venus in Seide), the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka and Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauß the son, and as an encore the Radetzky March by Johann Strauß the father. These works were performed altogether too quickly. I suppose the sonorities do not work as well with only a trio performing, so these arrangements probably work either as background music or for actual dancing at an event but less so for a concert performance, and performing at speed at least cuts out the opportunities for thin sonorities in these arrangements. The waltzes would have been fast enough, but someone might have died trying to keep up dancing to that polka. As for the march, we clapped and left.