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To Space And Back: An Evening Of Piano Trios at Arts + Literature Laboratory
December 16, 2022 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm$15 – $20
A trio of headshots of the performing musicians—Shuguang Gong (piano), Sahada Buckley (violin), and Trace Johnson (cello).
This program of chamber works by composers Bedrich Smetana, Fazil Say, and Dmitri Shostakovich spans over 150 years—from the lavish romanticism of Smetana’s nearly 30-minute “Piano Trio In G Minor, Op. 15,” composed in 1855, to the creeping dramatism of Say’s more contained “Space Jump, Op. 46,” which was first performed less than a decade ago. The evening concludes with Dmitri Shostakovich’s mid-twentieth-century work, “Piano Trio No. 2 In E Minor.”
Say’s modern piece, which performing violinist Sahada Buckley rightfully calls “a total bop,” swoons with a tense interplay of pizzicato and legato technique between her violin and Trace Johnson’s cello, before Shuguang Gong’s stark and sticky piano melody sweeps up the strings in a dizzying rush from lower to higher register. If it sounds like the soundtrack to a high-stakes stunt on silent film, it sort of is, tributing Felix Baumgartner’s legendary jump from a helium balloon in Earth’s stratosphere as he picks up speed.
The three movements of Smetana’s “Piano Trio” actually well-complement Say’s acrobatic work; while they may momentarily offer a brighter sonic palette that evokes the lithe dance of nostalgia, the piece as a whole is predominantly consumed by a melancholic motif reflective of Smetana’s loss of his eldest daughter. In its finale, the range of the piano particularly shines as the strings drift atop its piquant pianissimo and full-on forte.
After an intermission, the trio will conclude with the 25-minute suite of Shostakovich’s “Piano Trio,” which expresses the same amalgamation of elation and grief in Smetana’s composition. Shostakovich channels these emotions most vividly into the dramatic arc of the final movement, rife with alluring polarity and a seismic dynamic range.
Reference the event page for a substantial idea about the performers, but it doesn’t quite compare to hearing the virtuosic potential of Buckley and Johnson, whose electroacoustic duo Vōchē recently improvised one of the most compelling sets I’ve seen this year, at Communication. With the dexterous Gong joining Buckley and Johnson for this performance, “To Space And Back” promises to articulate the reciprocal and interconnected musical journey.
Buckley, Johnson, and Gong are also performing this same piano trio program in Hamel Music Center (Collins Hall) on UW-Madison campus on Monday December 12, at 7:30 p.m.
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