Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 17, 2023

REVIEW: Valley Classical Concerts, "Orion Weiss, William Hagen, Nicholas Canellakis"

Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity, Florence, MA 
January 15, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

This varied program by an ad hoc trio of soloists – pianist Orion Weiss, violinist William
Hagen, and cellist Nicholas Canellakis – could have been titled “A Century of Piano Trios,” as it moved from Haydn’s 1793 trio in A Major, the thirty-second of his forty-five works in that form, to Dvorak’s 1891 “Dumky” trio in E Minor, the last of his four such works, and back to Mendelssohn’s 1846 trio in C Minor, the second of his two piano trios. 

Haydn’s likeable music is a favorite concert opener to put audiences in a good mood, and, here, also to clarify the easy personal rapport and technical unanimity among these players, who all have extensive chamber music experience but are soloists in their primary careers. In their lively reading of his A Major trio, the “Allegro moderato” first movement was urgent and visceral; the “Andante,” a restful interlude; and the “Finale: Vivace assai,” a fast and furious race to the finish line. 

Dvorak’s “Dumky” trio derives its nickname from the Ukrainian word “dumka” (“thought,” plural “dumky”), which evolved into a Slavic folk ballad and, later, a classical music form depicting sudden happy-sad mood shifts. Like Haydn’s A Major trio, Dvorak’s E Minor defies the traditional four-movement structure, comprising six movements, all dumky. Introducing the piece, Weiss joked that it could almost be called “Six Slavonic Dances.” 

The Dumky’s open emotionalism gave each member of this world-class threesome a chance to shine. Hagen’s clear, silky tone thrived in the many upbeat, exuberant moments, while the warm, resonant timbre of Canellakis’ cello was most expressive in the darker, melancholy passages. Weiss provided a solid, steady underpinning for his flashier colleagues, while showing digital dexterity to spare.   

Hagen praised Mendelssohn’s C Minor trio for its “triumphant” finale (the silent Canellakis had temporarily “lost his voice”), which the ensemble rendered whole-heartedly, along with an animated opening “Allegro energico e con fuoco,” a graceful “Andante espressivo,” and an elfin “Scherzo: Molto allegro quasi presto.” The Bombyx's warm acoustic enhanced the drama of all three performances.

The next concert in Valley Classical’s season will present cellist Zlatomir Fung and pianist Janice Carissa on March 8, 2023 at Smith College, Northampton on March 8, 2023.