Despite two changes of violinist in the last decade, the Trio di Milano of 1988 seems pretty much the same ensemble it was in the 1970s: polished and competent to a fault, tight in matters of thought and execution, slick in sound-profile.
And not spontaneous. As the group showed at its latest local performance, Sunday afternoon for Coleman Concerts in Beckman Auditorium at Caltech, Pasadena, consistency, not heat or insight, is its hallmark.
The present membership--founders Bruno Canino (piano) and Rocco Filippini (cello), with the recently arrived Mariana Sirbu (violin)--represents high standards of technical and musical accomplishment, and delivers immaculate readings. Yet, for all their virtues, those readings tend not to be lively. Sculptured and contrived, yes--but not breathing. Certainly not breathing heavily.
The three trios played at this matinee performance, by Haydn, Faure and Shostakovich, emerged similar rather than contrasting, so neatly were they presented. Hard-edged textures, flippant passage-work and well-grooved tempos marked each one.