By AUSTIN HOPKINS
For The News-Letter
In their Baltimore debut, The Montrose Trio opened this year’s Shriver Hall Concert Series Sunday, Oct. 25. The classical music trio consists of pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Martin Beaver, and cellist Clive Greensmith.
The concert was the first of three concerts in the Concert Series’ 50th Anniversary celebration titled “Born in Baltimore,” which highlights commissions from composers closely associated with Baltimore. Sunday’s concert featured the work of James Lee III, who is a professor at nearby Morgan State University and who attended the evening’s performance.
His commission was Piano Trio No. 2, “Temple Visions,” which made its East Coast premiere at the performance. The music was written specifically for The Montrose Trio.
This concert also marked The Montrose Trio’s first time playing in the city of Baltimore. They are on their “Temple Visions” tour, which stops in Philadelphia, Detroit and Portland, Ore. It’s no coincidence that these cities feature the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Detroit Chamber Music Society and the Friends of Chamber Music, respectively, since those are the groups that helped commission all of the work along with the Shriver Hall Concert Series.
However Lee’s piece was not the only one they played during the concert. The trio began with the first piano trio of Beethoven’s first opus — a notable historical piece because it helped propel Beethoven into notoriety when he was still a young composer.
Then The Montrose Trio played Lee’s piece and later, finally finished off with Johannes Brahms’ first piano trio of his eighth opus in B major.
As might be expected from a prestigious group like The Montrose Trio, the pieces were played with incredible technical proficiency. All three of the performers played with great energy and vigor. While it certainly wasn’t as loud as concerts in other genres like rock or hip-hop, the classical music filled the auditorium.
The performance was powerful, and each of the performers played obvious and apparent with passion. Beaver played his violin with such enthusiasm that his hair shook during the most intense moments.
Although the overall volume was not overwhelmingly robust, at other times the cello and violin slightly overshadowed the sound of the piano, purely in loudness, when played simultaneously.
“Temple Visions” was the most highly-anticipated part due to its obscurity. Although the other musical selections that were performed were very good, they are also already much more well-known.
Like much of Lee’s work, this composition was inspired by biblical scenes, and this one in particular was focused on the Book of Revelation. The piece was dynamic with a mixture of fast and slow, light and serious and clear and chaotic. The violin stood out, especially during the end of the piece when it became strong and aggressive.
Nonetheless, the stage was naturally set by Beethoven’s work. The traditionalist piece gave nods to other famous composers, but notably it had strong, upbeat and conclusive finish. The cello set the stage for this piece, especially in the final movement, where it built to its conclusion. Parker’s piano playing shined, especially at the end.
The night’s concert was capped off by Brahms, which started in a light and mellow tone but progressively became darker and more serious. Brahms’s original piece went through an interesting series of revisions when it was first composed — it was born out of his conflicted emotions in a complicated love affair and refined by the wisdom of an older Brahms 35 years later.
This concert drew a solid turnout from the Baltimore community. Although Shriver Hall was not packed, most seats were filled.
The crowd tended to be quite elderly, but a stronger turnout from Hopkins students should be encouraged to attend these events, especially since tickets are free for Hopkins and Peabody students.