As in past concerts, the women of the Eroica Trio were dressed alluringly to open the Founders Hall chamber music series Saturday night, but it was not the plunge down to here or the slit up to there that held the greatest attraction. It was the sizzle of the musical ensemble that seduced listeners at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.
Pianist Erika Nickrenz, violinist Adela Pena and cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio formally banded together in 1986, but they have been musical chums since child prodigy days, and their long association paid off here in a unity of intent that was undiminished by stylistic or technical demands.
Opening with Mozart's sunny Piano Trio in G, K. 564, the three conveyed an infectious sense of fun, in graceful, unhurried phrases and good-natured dovetailing. Then, the ensemble turned to Shostakovich's searing Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor for a wrenching performance that caressed angular lines and hurtled through feverish passages with a furious sense of inevitability and rhythmic purpose.
Although determination seemed to flag in a few quiet moments of the Piano Trio No. 2, Opus 87, by Brahms, the musicians lured their listeners with a muscular approach to the work's romantic expanse, which they balanced with precision-oriented, hushed mystery.
Throughout the evening, the players displayed remarkable concentration, despite hindrances from a beeping pager, a squeaky pedal and a woman who clattered into the hall--during the suspenseful introduction to Shostakovich's trio--and then passed nonchalantly in front of the performers. Having conquered all, the Eroica offered one encore--Raimundo Penaforte's arrangement of the last of Gershwin's three Preludes for Piano.