It may be the first piano trio of genuinely star magnitude to emerge since the Stern-Rose-Istomin Trio, in that, like that vaunted triumvirate, each of its members maintains a celebrated solo career. (A possible exception: the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.) And they are all still in their 30s.
I am speaking of pianist David Golub, violinist Mark Kaplan and cellist Colin Carr - the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio - due here Wednesday for a concert at 8 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts. There they will be joined by Utah Symphony music director Joseph Silverstein on the violin for performances of Beethoven's String Trio in G major, Op. 9, No. 1, Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor and the Brahms C minor Piano Quartet.And do they ever worry about the burden such a "double life" imposes?
"Actually we do," says Carr, a Liverpool native who made his first big splash on these shores a few years back when he won the Naumburg Competition. "We're very much aware of carrying the slag, if you like, of being a group of soloists who are not a real piano trio, who don't rehearse very much and who should leave it to people who have time to do it. But we've apparently been successful in deflecting that bias. In nearly all the criticisms that have come our way, whether as chamber performers or as soloists in the Beethoven Triple Concerto, people have remarked on what a surprising pleasure it's been that we have sounded so unified."
In fact the idea of the trio goes back to Golub and Kaplan's Juilliard days, before either of them had made much of a beginning on any kind of a career.
"David and I had known each other quite a while and had always enjoyed making music together. We had talked in vague terms about forming a trio, then when we found Colin we knew it was the right things to do."
"Originally the thought was that we would use the trio as a core group for various chamber projects, the sort of thing we're doing in Salt Lake," Golub explains. "In fact one of the first things we did was a three-concert series at Alice Tully Hall that, in addition to a trio recital, involved a lot of mixed things, some with a singer, others with a clarinet, like Messiaen's `Quartet for the End of Time.' But that proved difficult to take on the road, what with the exigencies of travel and scheduling."
The geographic factors alone would make that a challenge. Of the three, the Massachusetts-born Kaplan is the only one to spend most of his time in this country. Golub, originally from Chicago, currently divides his time between the United States and Europe, where he and his Italian-born wife maintain a home in Milan. A position on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music keeps Carr here four or five months a year; the rest of the time he is on the road, with occasional stopovers at the 15th-century house he occupies near Oxford.
"We tend to spend concentrated periods of time together, then there might be six months when we don't see each other at all," Carr says. According to Golub those periods add up to around six weeks a year, during which time the group tours and records.
Their first release, a complete set of the Schubert piano trios, is reviewed on this page. At the time of our telephone interview they were involved in recording the two Mendelssohn trios, also for Arabesque, to be followed by a Brahms survey.
"For one thing," Carr says, "it's some of the best music these composers ever wrote. With the Schubert trios, the Beethoven trios and the Brahms trios you're catching these great masters at their most personal and intimate. They're obviously only too aware of what important pieces they're writing, and what great pieces."
Both Golub and Kaplan admit that solo engagements, especially with major orchestras, can be more lucrative. "But this is monetarily rewarding, too," the former adds. "Plus which there's a certain kind of artistic satisfaction you get doing chamber music, and it feeds into your solo playing."
He elaborates: "A lot of times the piano simply plays in opposition to the strings, but the most important moments are when you are trying to put together three different mechanisms and personalities. It makes you think in a more precise way than you would as a soloist, where you tend to think in terms of the moment and what you want to do. The result is that you start listening to yourself in a different way, even when you're playing alone and certainly with an orchestra, and begin reacting as though you're playing with a very large chamber ensemble."
"I think that's common to the three of us," Kaplan comments, "that sense of musical integrity and refusal to take easy solutions. Every player has distinct contributions to make and, instead of facing problems head on, we try to deal with them on their own terms as a group rather than just saying let's get from Point A to Point B."
Carr agrees. "If we find ourselves disagreeing on something like tempo, very rarely do we sit down and argue about it until somebody is won over. Usually we're able to see both sides and there's always some common ground."
Finally, he adds, "I think it's important to put down that we laugh a lot."
Pro-rated subscriptions to this year's "season of soloists" are still available; for information call the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City at 467-9649. Individual tickets to Wednesday's concert, at $12, will be available at the door.