On Friday evening November 10, the members of the Morgenstern Trio returned for the fourth time to perform for Chamber Music Monterey Bay at Sunset Center in Carmel. Every time we hear this ensemble we marvel once again at the refinement and artistic intensity of the individual players and the uncanny way they perform together in ensemble to create music that totally grabs us and holds us enthralled for the better part of two hours.
The members of the trio, pianist Catherine Klipfel, violinist Stefan Hempel and cellist Emanuel Wehse, are brilliant and accomplished musicians who started performing together during their conservatory days at Folkwang Universität der Kunste in Essen, Germany. The awards this ensemble has won in chamber music competitions is impressive and indicates that wherever they competed, their amazing gifts were instantly recognized. What was so impressive in their playing last night was the miraculous way the individual musicians listened so intently to each other, respected each others space, and always enhanced each others playing. This was ensemble playing at its best.
We heard rich and intensely resonant playing from cellist Wehse, brilliant and masterful playing from violinist Hempel, and from pianist Klilpfel an astonishing display of superb musicianship and virtuoso piano artistry that was either commanding or subtle, depending on what was called for in the score. What I am really trying to say is that these three musicians were never trying to show off their skills, but rather to bring out the best in the music they were performing in a way that absorbed our attention and involved us in a profound way.
It was an interesting program the Morgenstern Trio presented for us, and it began with “Trio on Irish Folk Tunes” by Swiss composer Frank Martin, a work we learned that was specifically requested by CMMB President Emeritus, Amy Anderson. This piece charmed us with its outer movements evoking images of Irish lassies and their gyrating feet. In the somber slow movement, cellist Wehse’s lovely intense dirge was very moving. The final movement, a spirited and joyful Irish jig, was a knock out.
Next we heard Ravel’s Trio in A Minor, a masterpiece that never ceases to amaze us with the perfection of its scoring for both strings and piano. The dazzling sonorities and beautiful writing bring out the best in each member of the trio. Never were they more impressive than in the haunting beginning of the first movement (that quickly developed into a frenzy of intense feeling), the fleeting Scherzo and the magnificent Passacaille and final movement. Pianist Klipfel has a very significant presence in the Ravel Piano Trio, and she was amazing.
The program ended with a superb performance of Schubert’s Trio in B-flat Major, D.898, and never have I heard it played more beautifully. We were hearing three consummates musicians at the top of their form bringing out all the Schubert magic and doing it with a natural spontaneity that was totally winning.
After thunderous applause and cheering, the members of the trio returned to stage to give us one encore, a dazzling scherzo from one of Haydn’s string quartets. They didn’t just play it fast –- it was more like the speed of light. Departing through the lobby, we heard a warm buzz of enthusiastic approval from members of the audience.
This was a concert to remember.