By Cristina Schreil
Talk about power in numbers. A debut album from Trio 180—violinist Ann Miller, cellist Nina Flyer, and pianist Sonia Leong, the faculty piano-trio-in-residence at the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music—presents a fine collection of chamber-music repertoire. It opens with the “Dumky” Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90, by Antonin Dvorak, a popular work for trio rife with wonderful textures and inflected with a folk spirit. All three seem to sensitively negotiate the vital contrasts between moments of uplifting happiness and somber, contemplative, lamenting passages central to the dumky form. They play with admirable cohesion.
Also included on the album is Elegie, Op. 23, by Josef Suk, a pupil of Dvorak. Captivating passages touching on a serene and beautiful meditation on death yield momentarily to intense emotion. The trio brings out the gravitas of this contrast. A particularly pleasing inclusion is Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 63. It’s an elegant performance. The trio renders the vivacious second movement with an exceptional snappiness. The last movement wraps the album with jubilance.
There are moments throughout the album where there seems to be a bit too much ambience, inviting the piano to momentarily stifle violin and cello, but this doesn’t deflate any enthusiasm for the performance; the trio’s pleasing musicality and deft, splendid playing is overall transporting. As the ensemble’s name may imply, it’s worth turning back for another listen.
Ann Miller, violin; Nina Flyer, cello; Sonia Leong, piano
(North Pacific Music)