Monday, May 19, 2008

'The music turned gossamer in their hands' writes the Milwaukee Sentinel

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Trio taps into ranges of emotion

Journal Sentinel music critic

Posted: May 14, 2008

Brahms' chamber music touches on the innocence, rage, restlessness, nostalgic yearning, sunny recollection, quiet contemplation, flooding love both romantic and universal, noble resolve, and all the impulses that rise and fade and rise again in every heart and mind. To hear his music played well is to understand that each of us is a brother or sister in the human fraternity of private joy and pain.

All of this was plain to hear Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zelazo Center, as violist Yuri Gandelsman, cellist Wendy Warner and pianist Irina Nuzova played the Cello Sonata in E Minor, the Viola Sonata No. 1 in F minor and the Trio in A minor opus 114.

The first movement of the Viola Sonata (originally for clarinet), surges ahead only to halt abruptly, again and again, at harmonic dead ends. This is the music of urgent frustration. Brahms delayed harmonic resolution in the second movement, too, but to opposite, soothing effect. The music turned gossamer in Nuzova and Gandelsman's hands. The chords hovered above tonic and came to earth only at the final cadence, and then ever so delicately.

Sorrow was never sweeter than in the long, slow opening theme of the Cello Sonata, which Warner rendered as a generous outpouring of dark, singing tone in deep-breathing phrases. Through most of the sonata, Brahms moves the piano and cello together in rhythm. It's as if he merged the two instruments into a single, harmonizing line, as opposed to assigning roles of melody and accompaniment. Nuzova and Warner sounded entirely attuned to this notion and to one another in this beautiful and compelling reading.

The concentration, sympathy and skill that informed the duets compounded in the trio. The shifting relationships among the three voices were as palpable as the shifting contact and exchanges of weight among dancers in a pas de trois. The players grasped and clarified the general sentiments and the infinite nuances within them, from the smoldering build-ups to explosions in the first movement to the second's lyrical warmth, which dissipated in a final sigh.

E-mail Tom Strini at

From the May 15, 2008 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

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