Trio con Brio Copenhagen

Back by Popular Demand

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Tuckerman Hall - Performance 8:00 PM, Pre-concert Talk 7 PM

Tickets: $39, $36, students $20 /$15 at door. See menu bar "ordering tickets" for more info.

"A beautifully subdued performance that brought exceptional grace and fluidity." - New York Times

If you missed this Trio last Spring, then be grateful for a second chance - they brought the audience to their feet cheering, which is not often the case for a chamber ensemble. Not just another beautiful chamber ensemble - this award-winning Trio con Brio first caught audiences' and critics' attention with a sensational top-prize-winning performance at Germany's prestigious ARD-Munich Competition in 2002.  Since then Trio con Brio has won first prizes in Italy, Norway and Denmark and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Award - one of the most coveted in the world of chamber music.  Critics say that they belong to the upper echelons of young chamber ensembles performing today!

Danish pianist Jens Elvekjaer, his wife Soo-Kyung Hong on cello and her sister Soo-Jin Hong on violin - truly a family of musical artistry.

The perfect setting for an evening of chamber music is Tuckerman Hall, another historical and acoustical gem right here in Worcester.  Gilded and gorgeous, with a capacity that is not too large and therefore creates wonderful feelings of intimacy with the music, refreshments available during intermissions, and a variety of free parking options surrounding the hall makes this a perfect location.


Trio con Brio Copenhagen:   Jens Elvekjaer, Piano     Soo-Jin Hong, Violin     Soo-Kyung Hong, Cello


Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Trio in G major, Hob. XV:25 “Gypsy”


            Poco adagio

            Finale. Rondo all' Ongarese: Presto

 Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Piano Trio


            Pantoum - Assez vif

            Passacaille - Très large

            Final – Animé


Anton Arensky (1861-1906)

Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.32

            Allegro moderato - Adagio

            Scherzo. Allegro molto

            Elegia. Adagio

            Finale. Allegro non troppo



Joseph Haydn is credited with the composition of an estimated forty-four surviving piano trios.  The exact number is veiled in uncertainty owing to destroyed scores and doubts about authenticity.

This trio became enormously famous all over Europe, largely for the vigor of its finale, which the original English publisher labeled “Rondo, in the Gypsies’ style.”  It was probably one of the last pieces Haydn composed in England in 1795 before leaving that scene of his symphonic triumphs forever. He dedicated the set to Rebecca Schroeter, a charming widow who became Haydn’s student, confidante, correspondent, and perhaps something more than that during the composer’s English journeys.

The trios are all described on their title pages as works for the piano, with accompaniments for violin and cello. This was a conventional description growing out of the “accompanied sonata,” in which the keyboard contained all the essential musical material, and any other instruments simply doubled the melody or bass line and could be omitted at will. But the convention was already outmoded in Haydn’s trios, in which all three instruments are necessary to produce the piece. (Though the published score specifies violin, cello, and piano, it was common practice—especially for music largely intended for private concerts at home—to substitute other instruments that could cover the same range, so one might have heard a flute or even perhaps an oboe on the top line, or a bassoon replacing the cello)

Haydn evidently planned the finale from the outset as the showpiece of the trio. The opening movement is relatively slow, an Andante, rather than the expected Allegro. It is a delightful set of double variations on a tune heard both in the major and the minor. The second variation is in E minor, foreshadowing the E major of the middle movement. The second movement is even slower than first, and its middle section—a gorgeous songlike violin melody—seems to move still more slowly. All of this beautifully sets up the finale, which Haydn constructs from genuine gypsy tunes that he learned in Austria. The gypsy bands of the day provided the most popular exotic music in Europe, and Haydn—like Brahms, a century later—knew well when to bring it in for an exciting climax.


By 1914 Ravel had already been toying with the idea of writing a piano trio for some eight years and is even reported to have said to his friend and pupil Maurice Delage: "I've written my trio. Now all I need are the themes." But in an autobiographical note he dictated in 1928 his only comment on the completed work was that it was "Basque in coloring." This puzzled commentators until, some years after his death, the opening theme of the first movement was discovered among sketches for his unfinished work for piano and orchestra Zaspiak Bat ("The Seven Provinces"), based on Basque themes.

The first movement is in sonata form, but inevitably Ravel introduces his own modifications, as with the second theme which appears unconventionally in the tonic A minor. In the development, Ravel builds up tension by means of continually fluctuating tempi, while at the reprise the first theme on the piano is reduced to its 3+2+3 rhythm in order to accommodate the simultaneous presentation of the second theme on the strings (it may be worth recording that Ravel spoke admiringly of the reprise in the first movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, likewise disguised). In the matter of instrumental balance, Ravel frequently doubles violin and cello at a distance of two octaves, placing the right hand of the piano between them.

"Pantoum," the title of the second movement, is taken from a Malay verse form, imitated by Hugo, Gautier and Baudelaire among others, in which the second and fourth lines of each quatrain become the first and third lines of the next. For years it was rather casually assumed that in adopting this title Ravel was merely indulging vague exotic inclinations. But nothing about Ravel's composing was ever vague, and in 1975 the British scholar Brian Newbould proved that Ravel does in fact adhere closely to the structure outlined above and, what is more, observes a further requirement of the original form—that the poem (or movement) deal with two separate ideas pursued in parallel, in this case, the brittle opening theme on the piano and the subsequent smoother one on strings two octaves apart. Each of these themes thus has a real continuation (which we hear in performance) and a notional one (which is unheard but provided the composer a private satisfaction).

These exigencies would be enough to keep most composers occupied, but Ravel goes one step further and superimposes these games on a traditional ABA form, whose middle section is in a different meter! It could be that he was trying to outdo Debussy, who had set Baudelaire's pantoum "Harmonie du soir" in 1889. But at any rate this extraordinarily intricate structure lends some credence to his remark about only needing the themes.

In contrast with the whirling motion of the "Pantoum," the "Passacaille" that follows is obsessively linear-eleven statements of an eight-bar phrase, rising to a climax and then receding again. Even more than the "Pantoum," perhaps, this movement is a tribute to the teaching of André Gedalge, the work's dedicatee, to whom Ravel was ever grateful for his technical advice. In the last movement, the alternation of 5/4 and 7/4 bars returns us to the metric instability of the first movement, but the structure is even more firmly that of sonata form with a second theme in the shape of massive piano chords. Ravel's work on this movement coincided with the declaration of war in August, which may possibly explain the trumpet calls in the development. Typically, he wrote off this work, in which his technical mastery is seen in all its dazzling perfection, as "just another Trio."

That disclaimer was, however, to some extent for public consumption. In his heart, Ravel was passionate about compositional technique and about his role in its progress: to close friends he would occasionally unbutton to the extent of saying: "Well, you know, nobody has ever done that before!"


            Russian composer, pianist, conductor and teacher Anton Arensky is from the generation between Rimsky-Korsakov (his teacher) and Rachmaninoff and Scriabin (his students). Nurtured by parents who were both amateur musicians, by the time he was nine Arensky was already composing songs and piano pieces. He began studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1879, and upon graduating with the Gold Medal in 1882 he immediately joined the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, a marked distinction for a 21 year old. In Moscow he received friendly encouragment from Tchaikovsky, whose own international musical style had the greatest impact on Arensky's development as a composer.           

            The last five years of his life were spent composing and touring as a successful concert pianist and conductor, but Arensky had the reputation as an overactive drinker and gambler, and these addictions undermined his health. He died from tuberculosis a few months before his 45th birthday.

            The Piano Trio No. 1 is Arensky' most frequently performed extended composition. It was written in memory of cellist Karl Davidov, who had been director of the St. Petersburg conservatory while Arensky was a student there. The cello is featured prominently, no doubt in honor of Davidov, perhaps also as a tribute to Arensky's father who likewise played the cello. Apparently using Mendelssohn's Trio in D Minor as a model, Arensky demonstrates his lyrical gifts as well as his deftness in organizing convincing musical discourse. —Edward Lein







About the Artists

Trio con Brio Copenhagen

There are times when two plus two can equal three. Trio con Brio Copenhagen is one such instance, where family ties, cultural blending, and musical connections all converge to color, shape and energize the concerts they present worldwide. Korean sisters Soo-Jin and Soo-Kyung Hong and Danish pianist Jens Elvekjaer created the Trio in Vienna in 1999 with the concept of pairs coming together. The sisters had played together since childhood, and Jens Elvekjaer and Soo-Kyung Hong (who are now married) had played piano and cello duos together for years. According to Mr. Elvekjaer, “We have always felt that this ‘two and two equals three’ dynamic provides a uniqueness and intensity to all of our performances.

“The strong personal bonds among the three of us greatly affect the way we conceive music together. We can be one hundred percent honest with each other in rehearsal and performance, and our different cultural backgrounds have provided an unusual perspective that shapes all that we do. It is a process of thinking without boundaries, cultural or otherwise, while staying within the great traditions that the music needs.”

This high quality has been recognized not only by audiences and critics, but by some of the most important and renowned musicians of our time. In 2005, Trio con Brio Copenhagen was the recipient of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award, one of the most coveted in the world of chamber music. This biennial award, with a panel of prominent musicians as judges, carried with it appearances on twenty major concert series across the United States, including at New York City's Carnegie Hall, thereby introducing an extraordinarily accomplished “rising” piano trio to American audiences.

The Trio was praised from the time of its inception. About the Trio's debut CD, the American Record Guide wrote: “One of the greatest performances of chamber music I've ever encountered...What stands out from this ensemble is the range of tone and sound...They command an amazing range of timbres. Melodies sing with an aching sweetness, or seduce with wild eroticism, or haunt with impenetrable mystery.” Gramophone magazine wrote: “It's easy to see what so impressed the judges...[the] performances can compete with the best available...airtight ensemble...a superb, greatly gifted chamber group.”

The Trio first commanded international attention with a performance that took the highest prize at Germany's prestigious ARD-Munich Competition in 2002. Since then, it has won First Prize in additional competitions: Italy's Premio Vittorio Gui (Florence), Norway's Trondheim Chamber Music Competition, and the Danish Radio Competition. The ensemble also won the “Allianz Prize” for Best Ensemble in Germany's Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Second Prize in the Vienna Haydn Competition, and the Premio Trio di Trieste in Italy. Critics have praised the Trio for its “sparkling joie de vivre” and “magic dialogue”; a review of its performance at the Salzburg Mozarteum stated, “They cast a spell over their alive, so musical...ravishing.”

Trio con Brio Copenhagen's busy schedule includes major concert halls in the U.S., Europe and Asia, such as Tivoli Concert Hall (Copenhagen), the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Carnegie Hall (New York City), Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (Mostly Mozart Festival, twice in 2009), the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Mozart-Saal (Vienna), Herkulessaal (Munich), Beethoven-Haus (Bonn), the Musikhalle (Hamburg), the Mozarteum (Salzburg), the Seoul and Sejong Arts Centers (Korea), Bunka Kaikan (Tokyo), Teatro Olimpico (Vicenza, Italy), the Båstad Chamber Music Festival (Sweden), and the Bergen and Trondheim Chamber Music Festivals (Norway).

The members of the Trio say that they create their programs to include “the core well-known repertoire as well as contemporary compositions from Scandinavia. We often commission pieces so that our repertoire is dynamic and constantly changing. Our performances and interpretations benefit from a constant curiosity about repertoire as well as new ‘angles’ – cohesive themes – in programming. This opens new perspectives for both the players and the audience. Ideally, a program should provide an enriching and exciting journey for listeners, with contrasts, moods and colors. For example, one really listens to Beethoven differently after having been immersed in the sound world of Hans Abrahamsen’s pieces. With truly ideal programming, even we are occasionally surprised!”

Trio con Brio Copenhagen performed all the Beethoven piano trios in a cycle of three concerts at the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen with great success. The Trio was Ensemble in Residence in Copenhagen's Rundetaarn (Round Tower), with five sold-out concerts in 2005; these performances were also heard on the European Broadcasting Union and Danish Radio. The Trio has also been heard on the BBC, Korean Broadcasting Systems, Norwegian Radio, Swedish Radio, Radiotelevisione Italiana, and on the major German networks (ARD, NDR, Hessischer Rundfunk and Radio Berlin). Trio con Brio Copenhagen is frequently featured as soloists in Beethoven's Triple Concerto with orchestras.

All three musicians are interesting, vital people whose personalities play off one another offstage as they do onstage. Good food and wines figure prominently in all three musicians’ lives, as do the joys of traveling – a very good thing since it is compulsory in their careers as busy musicians.

The Trio’s sound benefits from the superb instruments all three play: Soo-Jin plays a violin built by Andrea Guarneri from the 17th century, Soo-Kyung plays a Testore cello from 1731, and Jens is the first Steinway Artist from Denmark.

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