Classical musicians, like many
other musicians, like to get out from under the umbrella of
larger groups and take the spotlight in smaller ensembles.
The Lancaster Symphony Orchestra’s new chamber music series put
violinist Igor Yuzefovich, the orchestra’s concertmaster,
pianist Michael Sheppard and cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski in
that spotlight Sunday night at Franklin & Marshall College’s
Roschel Center for some outstanding music-making.
The three, performing as the Monument Trio, started the concert
with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in G Major, “Gypsy Rondo.”
The work was light-hearted but not inconsequential, especially
in the final movement when the contrast between the major-key,
rhythmically-steady sections and the minor-key “Gypsy” sections
were played up for all they were worth.
Next came Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio in C Major, opening up a
whole new world of complexity and seriousness. All four
movements of the work revolve around the same four notes,
appearing in endless permutations and moods.
There were times when the work seemed to flirt with abstraction,
others when warm-spirited romanticism took hold.
“It’s all about inviting the audience into our world — the
performers’ world,” Yuzefovich told the audience during his
introduction to the piece, and that’s what the performance that
The performers’ world can sometimes be a frightening one. Who
needs a horror movie when you’ve got the Trio No. 2 in E Minor
by Dmitri Shostakovich? This work got a searing, terrifying
performance from beginning to end. The work evoked tolling bells
from the piano, with scraped and dessicated strings playing
dances for the dead, sometimes evoking mania or the furious
buzzing of hornets.
The finale’s Jewish theme, a dance melody that degenerates into
pounding obsession and then into exhaustion, evokes the blackest
of black humor. Appropriately, the stunned audience took a few
moments before applauding the amazing performance.
Astor Piazzolla’s “Primavera Portena,” the “Spring” section of
his “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” was no lightweight finale.
The players could let go and let the subtle rhythms swing, but
the smoky, dense atmosphere evoked by Piazzolla’s complex
harmonies seemed to convey a sense of melancholy. In the trio’s
gentle performance, it became the positive to the Shostakovich
negative, a dance of the life that continues despite damage and
The series will continue March 22 and May 17.
Lancaster New Era
March 2, 2009
One of the musical pleasures in
Baltimore over the past five years or so has been the appearance and steady
growth of the Monument Piano Trio. I thought early on that this group had the
potential to enjoy a career well beyond the city. I still do, especially after
Sunday night's concert at An die Musik, where the trio has artists-in-residence
Violinist Igor Yuzefovich (assistant concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony
Orchestra), cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski (the BSO's assistant principal
cellist), and pianist Michael Sheppard enjoy an obvious musical rapport. The
lovely, refined phrasing they produced in the delicate slow movement of
Beethoven's G major Trio (Op. 1, No., 2) was one example of how sensitively the
players listen to and respond to each other. In the more rambunctious portions
of that work, Sheppard encountered an occasionally cloudy measure, but he and
his colleagues offered plenty of impressive playing. Same for the rest of the
program, which ventured into much rarer territory.
Max Bruch is today known primarily for a handful of pieces for violin (or cello)
and orchestra. His C minor Piano Trio doesn't enjoy much attention at all, but
the Monument group made a strong case for it, tapping deeply into the music's
lyrical groove. Rodion Shchedrin's Three Funny Pieces from 1997
actually can justify the "funny" tag, particularly the one called Let's Play
an Opera by Rossini, which boils down Rossini's trademark devices into a
manic few minutes, and the music hall kick of the Humoresque. The
performers brought out the often quirky coloring of Shchedrin's writing with
Sheppard has been writing a transcription for piano trio of Brahms' Symphony No.
2. The world may not need such a transcription, and there may be more than
enough repertoire written expressly for piano trio to keep any ensemble busy for
a long, long time. But I'm partial to transcriptions (I can't help myself from
seeking out solo piano arrangements of things like Elgar, Bruckner and Mahler
symphonies), so I'd hardly question Sheppard's decision to reduce Brahms to
violin, cello and piano. Next season, the complete transcription will be
performed; on Sunday, the second movement was unveiled as a teaser. Some of the
original material doesn't translate ideally (the darkest harmonies can't help
but sound thin when paired down from orchestral strength), but Sheppard has
skillfully and faithfully honored Brahms. And the performance had considerable
warmth and character, just as you would expect from the Monument Piano Trio.
- Tim Smith
The Shostakovich anniversary was
also the focus of an ambitious and rewarding concert Wednesday night at the
Peabody Conservatory featuring the Monument Piano Trio... The radiant
soprano Janice Chandler-Etieme reconfirmed her standing as one of Baltimore's
vocal treasures when she joined the trio for an emotionally potent account of
the intimate, symbol-filled Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok...
Violinist Igor Yuzefovich, cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski and pianist Michael
Sheppard matched the singer's eloquence and intense concentration. The
composer's final symphony, no. 15, with its enigmatic quotations from the
Rossini's William Tell Overture and Wagner's Ring, sounds remarkably persuasive
in Victor Danchenko's ingenious arrangement for piano trio and percussion.
The Monument members and percussionists Barry Dove, Robert Jenkins and Brian
Prechtl caught the score's high and low spirits, irony and tragedy in a taut,
riveting performance. Yuzefovich, Skoraczewski and Sheppard did mostly
effective work in the one well-known item on the bill, [Shostakovich's] Piano
Trio no. 2.
- Tim Smith
An die Musik's ensemble in residence, the
excellent Monument Piano Trio, split in duos for most of its concert Saturday
afternoon. Dariusz Skoraczewski delivered a remarkably assured performance of
Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata - ruby red in tone color, white hot in expressive
shading. ... Sheppard's playing was stronger when he backed Igor Yuzefovich in
Grieg's C minor Violin Sonata. The violinist's unfailingly lyrical line and
gleaming tone sent the music soaring. The three musicians gave a taut account of
a student work by Shostakovich, the Piano Trio No. 1, which meanders through
various styles before, surprisingly, settling into romantic cliche.
September 30, 2006
...With the first note
of the Haydn trio,[C Major, Hob. XV:27]
Yuzefovich, Skoraczewski and Sheppard became a unit, no longer individuals
playing together but rather one intricately voiced stream of music, taking the
audience through lands of wonder, worry, pleasure and pain. The young,
prize-winning performers demonstrated mature musicianship with every meaningful
sound blended together. ...
Next, Dvorak's "Dumky" trio grabbed the
audience by the throat with the cello's first imploring notes and didn't let go
through all five Slavic dances. Not only was Monument's ability to capture the
listener with its strength of character entirely breathtaking, but also the
equally important precision with which they were able to masterfully play at
thrilling tempos. ...
After the audience caught
their breath during intermission, the trio embarked upon a journey through
Mendelssohn's warm trio [D minor,
op. 49]. Just as
they did through the first half, the trio clicked tightly together while
allowing every note to carry its own meaning and every instrument its own
powerful voice and personality. There were moments of mystery that held the
audience at ransom, begging for resolution. When the trio decided to grant the
audience relief, it felt as though we were submerging into warm baths of safety
and comfort, free from the stresses of the world. With the last bold chordal
stretch of the final trio, the audience was left speechless, capable only of
clapping our hearts out.
- Sasha Kozlov
Johns Hopkins News-Letter
September 30, 2005
...Violinist Igor Yuzefovich, cellist Maxim Kozlov, and pianist Michael Sheppard
revealed plenty of individual and collective strengths in an appealing
program... the clarity of articulation and tightness of ensemble work proved
admirable; the players took that finale [Haydn Piano Trio in G Major] at Mach
speed without losing their grip...
December 2, 2004
... The jaunty, impish Beethoven Trio was full of sudden shifts in dynamics and
timbre,... the three musicians often threw a phrase back and forth as if engaged
in a spirited game of one-upmanship... the Monument [Piano] Trio turned its
youthful enthusiasm to an intense romanticism...
Baltimore City Paper
October 13, 2004
... The penetrating musicianship and dazzling virtuosity
for which Mr. Sheppard is known was clear with every note ...
Mr. Yuzefovich proved to be an equally great musical
contributor, adding another beautiful layer of melody to the program. His
technically flawless control over the violin, made only sweeter by his long,
singing tone, were especially clear in the Mendelssohn... Maxim
Kozlov brought to the trio a certain depth and richness of sound, and managed to
steal the audience's breath... in the second movement of the Mendelssohn trio.
There, his passionate and painful cry was like a hand grabbing at the heart...
- Sasha Kozlov
Johns Hopkins News-Letter
October 15, 2004