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Music Review

Guild Trio Strongest With Schumann's Gentler Sounds

October 21, 1998|JOHN HENKEN

Not all German Romantic piano trios are cut from the same cloth, but the Guild Trio certainly made a strong case for the mutuality of spirit and gesture on its program Monday, opening the Music Guild's 54th season and first with the Cal State Northridge Performing Arts Center as its Valley venue.

The centerpiece was Clara Schumann's belatedly familiar Trio in G minor, Opus 17. The Guild Trio is capable of incisive eruptions, such as its fiercely accented fugato in Schumann's finale, but it seemed happiest here in the more lyric projection of gentler sentiments. Violinist Janet Orenstein and cellist Brooks Whitehouse favored a light sound and insinuation over declamation. New pianist George Francois matched them equably but also took every viable opportunity to assert a more robust argument.

Francois was just as sonically bold in Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio in B flat, Opus 97, but far less articulate. As in the previous piece, the Guild players worked to best effect in the inner movements, blithely characterful in the Scherzo and warmly expressive in the singing variations, although it was in the finale that they drew the closest musical connections between Beethoven and Schumann.

To open was Schubert's tender Notturno, D. 897. The Guild's soft-grained but emotionally expansive main theme and its supple, understated swing in the contrasting extroversion set up the genial interpretive attitudes for the evening.

The trio displayed its more dashing side in encore, offering a somewhat messy but vividly impetuous romp through the "Pantoum" second movement of Ravel's A-minor Trio.

*

* The Guild Trio repeats this program tonight, 8 p.m., Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. 8th St., $7-$22. (310) 552-3030.

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