Named for the Constella Festival (or was it vice versa?), the Trio performed at the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Jewish Community Center Oct. 14 in observance of Daniel Pearl World Music Days. The concert was presented by the Mayerson JCC in collaboration with the 2012 Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts.
Daniel Pearl World Music Days was created in remembrance of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and beheaded by extremists in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. There were two works on the program, Beethoven’s String Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 3, No. 1, and the String Trio by Czech composer Gideon Klein. Klein’s Trio had special significance for the event, having been composed when Klein was interned at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Poland in 1944.
Finkelshteyn put the program in context, historically and musically, noting that both Klein and Beethoven were 24 when their string trios were written. Beethoven’s inspiration was Mozart, specifically Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio, K. 563. It is in the same key, with the same number of movements (six), including two Minuets and two slow movements. Nine days after his String Trio was performed at Theresienstadt, Klein was transported to Auschwitz, where he died at the age of 25. (Beethoven lived considerably longer after composing his Trio, dying in 1827 at 56.)
The Constella Trio has developed remarkable ensemble unity in the relatively short time they have been together (they made their debut at Hebrew Union College in January, 2011). They demonstrated this in Beethoven’s Trio with split-second timing and a beautiful tonal blend. The first movement had a fine classic sheen, and they filled the second movement (Andante) with charm. They found all the fun in the first Menuetto (Minuet), with its humorous pauses and shared lines and motifs. By contrast, the Adagio was sweetly serious. The second Menuetto, as jolly as the first, featured an “exotic”-sounding trio (contrasting mid-section), with Berman nimbly negotiating the violin’s highest string over held chords by Senamaud and Finkelshteyn. The three played as one in the Allegro finale despite dauntingly swift episodes for all. And to the delight of their listeners, they gave it an extra “kick” by lengthening the few teasing bars before the lightning quick run-up to the end.
Despite the circumstances of its composition, Klein’s String Trio is a cheerful work, with a bright, vigorous Allegro, a folk-like slow movement and a propulsive, Molto Vivace finale, which Finkelshteyn described (ironically) as sounding like “a train that goes to a happy place.” The Constella players gave it a handsome performance, with plenty of dash in the first movement and a heartfelt reading of the second (a set of variations on a Moravian folk tune). The finale was exhilarating, with the three players exercising scrupulous attention to detail. A curly-haired toddler could be seen dancing in the aisle and applauding gleefully at the end. Klein would have pleased.