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MUSIC REVIEWS : Eroica Trio's Skill Justifies Its Naumburg Award

April 28, 1993|JOHN HENKEN

Music competitions have been taking a lot of heat in recent years. One's faith in the system is buoyed, however, when major awards go to such accomplished playing as that heard from the Eroica Trio at the Gold Medal series Monday at Ambassador Auditorium.

After dispatching comprehensive stylistic and technical challenges from Beethoven and Martinu on the first half, the only question remaining about the winner of the 1991 Naumburg Chamber Music Award was whether the somewhat slender sound of violinist Adela Pena and cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio would ripen sufficiently for the richness of Dvorak's "Dumky" Trio, Opus 90.

It did, and with compelling warmth. Erika Nickrenz provided complementary pianism, sensitive and accommodating yet quite capable of pertinently expressed leadership, in a passionate, fully interactive ensemble performance.

As impressive as the evident zest and skill was the underlying intelligence. Dvorak's "Dumky" presents serious problems of integration, met by the Eroica heroes with a purposeful clarity that did not preclude a feeling of spontaneity in its slippery emotional lurches.

Their way with the Trio in C minor, No. 3 of Beethoven's Opus 1, proved fleet and furious--perhaps overly so in the Menuetto. They did relax in the variations, though maintaining an edgy subtext.

This was Classicism turbocharged with Romantic fire. The Eroica Trio would seem to have little time for the less-is-more school of authenticity, overwhelming the piece with a sense of personal, rather than period, style.

An equal measure of articulate energy drove Martinu's Five Short Pieces, a 1930 compendium of ear-dazzling ensemble fireworks and quirky, brooding lyricism. Clean textures and pointed rhythmicity supported the Eroica's hotly argued account.

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