PLAINFIELD – The Stellaria Trio continues to cement its place as one of Vermont’s few permanent chamber ensembles, and a fine one at that. Saturday at the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House, pianist Claire Black, violinist Letitia Quante and cellist John Dunlop proved their mettle in works of Haydn, Brahms and Jennifer Higdon.
Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio in C Major, Op. 87, is one of the most substantial and rewarding works in the repertoire, and this ensemble enjoys its rhapsodic lyricism and grandeur. Black employed the full range of the piano, colors and power, propelling the continual changes in mood. Quante and Dunlop played with an overt lyricism that underscored the rhapsody. The virtuosity was such that technique wasn’t apparent.
Most importantly, the three played together as kindred spirits. This was their first time with a program they are taking around the state, so it wasn’t as cohesive as it might be. That said, their understanding was deep and the performance was convincing and affecting.
The Stellaria Trio was presented as part of the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House Concert Series, which continues to grow in stature. In this tiny village, the Stellaria concert is no longer an anomaly. Created by Steven and Kathy Light, the season will continue with the likes of mezzo-soprano Sophie Michaux, Mary Bonhag and Evan Premo with Annemieke Spoelstra and Jeremiah McLane, and more.
The surprise of Sunday’s program was “Sweet Yellow” (the first part of a 2003 two movement work) by Higdon, an American composer (b. 1962). Although the colors were brilliant and parts were virtuosic, the effect was pastoral as if describing an outdoor scene. The trio explored these colors and came together with a warm impressionist picture. It was pure pleasure.
Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 45 in E-flat Major, which opened the program, is something of a piano concerto. Black certainly delivered the runs, beautifully articulated, and the wonderful Classical lyricism, which Quante and Dunlop joined in. Again, it wasn’t quite as cohesive as it will be, and it took the first movement for the players to adjust to the Opera House’s intimate acoustics, not unlike a very reverberant living room. Finally, Vermont is fortunate to have local ensembles as fine as the Stellaria Trio.
The Stellaria Trio will repeat this program: at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at the Richmond Free Library; 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, at Saint Michael’s College’s McCarthy Arts Center in Colchester; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley in Norwich; and in June in Montpelier, Brandon, Shelburne and Burlington. For details, go online to www.stellariatrio.com.