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Music in Deerfield opens season with Horszowski Trio

The first concert of Music in Deerfield’s new season was given by the Horszowski Trio Saturday at Sage Hall on the Smith College campus in Northampton.

The program began with contrasting trios by Haydn and John Harbison, both written when the composers were 65 years old and still in their periods of greatest creativity. This was delightfully obvious in the Haydn trio, in which the piano part predominates, requiring for the most part little of the violin and cello players but great delicacy and fluency from the pianist, Rieko Aizawa.

Aizawa perfectly shared Haydn’s wit and good cheer with her audience, while she and her colleagues brilliantly played the last movement, with its mordant-like theme, at a breathtaking pace.

Harbison, a member of the faculty at M.I.T., is one of the least intimidating of modern American composers, one of a group that he has described as “notes and rhythms composers.” His second trio, “Short Stories,” came 36 years after his first, and it was austere in comparison with the Haydn trio, especially in the second movement, “Ballad.”

The work began with a rhetorical theme announced by the cello, in keeping with the movement’s title, “Tale.” The composer’s titles played with the different ways in which a story can be told, ending in the confusion of inaccurate re-tellings, the “Rumors and Reports” of the energetic third movement. The “Tale” ends in uncertainty and the story remains an “Enigma,” which is the title of the fourth movement.

The work ended with 12 decisive chords, similar to the 12 chords of the “Noontide” nocturne by John Field, composed 200 years earlier.

The final work in the program was Dvorák’s F minor trio, one of the greatest romantic works of the genre. Dvorák lavished special attention on the cello, who had glorious themes to play. The group’s cellist, Raman Ramakrishnan, helped by the mellow tone of his instrument, made in Naples in 1837, played them with intensity and love, attributes that were true of his colleagues throughout the program. The piano has a difficult and demanding part in this trio, which could overwhelm the stringed instruments, unless it is played with the technique, sensitivity and collegiality that Aizawa displayed.

Music in Deerfield owes a great deal to its artistic director, John Montanari, who has announced his impending retirement from WFCR - New England Public Radio.

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra saluted him in a recent concert at Amherst College. Accompanied on piano by music director Kevin Rhodes, seven orchestra members played movements by composers ranging from Beethoven to Piazzolla, and ending with a rousing performance by Thomas Bergeron of the Trumpet Concerto of 1950 by Alexander Arutiunian.

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