Yesterday afternoon's Chamber Music Society of Baltimore concert centered around violinist Earl Carlyss and pianist Ann JTC Schein, with a strong assist from oboist James Ostryniec.
These musicians joined forces for a new (1991) work by Ingrid Arauco, a young composer who teaches at the University of North Carolina and who studied at Goucher College, the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Pennsylvania.
Her Trio has some lovely moments, particularly in an intense and slow final movement that begins with a gravely beautiful solo cadenza for violin and ends with an ethereal one for oboe. There were too many places, however, that just didn't hold one's interest.
As Arauco said in an introduction to the piece, it's very much driven by the oboe. But while the writing for that instrument takes advantage of its Oriental coloring, the composer doesn't treat the other instruments with enough individuality. For much of the time, one had the feeling that one was listening to a duo -- for oboe and piano and violin -- than a real trio. The performance was a fine one.
The other two works on the program were for violin and piano alone -- Copland's only sonata and Bartok's two-movement Sonata No. 2. The Copland dates from the early 1940s when the composer was still in the "Jewish-cowpoke-from-Brooklyn" phase that produced his most popular music. This listener can't stand most of this stuff -- it may be meant sincerely but sounds insincere to his ears -- but Schein and Carlyss made the most of it, particularly relishing the balletic final movement.
The Bartok -- great music by any standard -- made everything else sound insignificant. The performance was a fine one (although I wish the first movement had been moodier and more intense), with the pianist skillfully negotiating the final movement's treacherous hand crossings and horrendous clusters of notes and the violinist raising the emotional temperature to a fine frenzy before bringing the work to its nostalgic close.