With the first full-bodied notes of Haydn's Piano Trio No. 42 in E-flat Major, the Leonardo Trio established its turf and indicated the sort of concert that lay ahead.
Theirs is an ensemble at the same time both luxuriant in sound and cleanly articulated. Their individual tones are beautiful, their virtuosity is exceptional, and their discretion and good taste is admirable in achieving ideal balance, as each player defers to whoever has the greater role to play at the moment. Especially admirable was the piano facility of Cameron Grant, who played his predominant passages authoritatively, or supported subtly.The Haydn trio dates from his most mature period, after 1790, and as such is a poised, optimistic work, overflowing with melodic themes refreshingly displayed. The players made the most of its ingratiating, songlike Allegro and continued with a lyric and thoughtful Andante, with occasional modulations that foreshadowed Schubert. The final Presto, uninhibited in form and feeling, was delivered buoyantly.
With an avowed intent to expand the piano trio repertory, the Leonardo Trio presented Andre Imbrie's new Trio No. 2 (1989). By way of introduction, cellist Jonathan Spitz suggested that the work be viewed as a tapestry, in which each instrumental strand played its part to complete the fabric. It is a helpful concept for much modern music, especially when so cohesively held together as in this poised and assured performance, which brought out the rhapsodic aspects in music that could have sounded spasmodic.
The opening Allegretto cantabile's complex pattern of interweavings and commentaries for each instrument, especially the piano, resembled a Chekov conversation - each participant wrapped up in his own engrossing and often very melodic thoughts, but converging at critical junctures, then digressing again, with a fascinating variety within congruence.
Sostenuto e con fuoco (sustained, with fire) seems an almost self-contradictory designation, but Imbrie's slow movement often had a smouldering intensity, as each instrument intoned its melody or joined common cause with the others. The final Allegro's rhythms were most complex of all, its texture bright and its content virtuosic - a sweeping movement that brilliantly climaxed an appealing new work.
Brahms wrote the Trio in C Major, Op. 87 at the height of his powers and to his own satisfaction - which was rare, for he was his own hardest taskmaster. Well he might have been pleased with a work so lively and fluent, of which the Leonardo gave a fine performance. They gloried in the abundance of themes, the rich and graceful exposition of the long first movement, and the Andante's theme and variations emerged with a nice Magyar flavor. The powerful, rhythmic Scherzo came off clean and clear, and the final Allegro capped the evening with a broad, carnival-like celebration.
The players responded to prolonged applause with an encore, beautifully shaping the thoughtful and sometimes wistful fourth movement of Dvorak's Dumky Trio.