Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 4, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Lysander Piano Trio"

Evergreen Crossings, South Windsor, CT 
April 30, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

This 40-year-old concert series ended its 2022-2023 season with an imaginative program of
mostly unfamiliar music by the New York-based Lysander Piano Trio. Formed in 2010 at the Juilliard School and named after Shakespeare’s young lover in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” its members are: Israel natives Itamar Zorman, violin, and Michael Katz, cello; and Belarus-born pianist Liza Stepanova. 

They opened with a colorful account of Spanish cellist and composer Gaspar Cassado’s 1926 Piano Trio in C Major. Its three movements reflect the vibrant dance tempos of his homeland, and this threesome gave it their all, from a driving “Allegro risoluto” to a sensuous “Tempo moderato e pesante” and a splashy “Rondo” finale. 

Next came a virtuosic reading of Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s 2009 “Two Nguni Dances,” which often evoke the folk traditions of his native South Africa. The complex rhythms of the first dance, “Inyanga,” sometimes required all three instrumentalists to play in different meters simultaneously. But the clarity of their technique made it easy to follow and gave the second dance, “Intsomi,” a marimba-like resonance.    

This was followed by the rarely heard “Piano Trio after The Barber of Seville,” an 1875 transcription by French organist and composer Renaud de Vilbac of themes from Giacchino Rossini’s 1816 comic opera. The Lysanders played this delightful pot-pourri of beloved arias with sparkling energy and wit. 

The only standard repertory piece on the program was its closer, a blazing rendition of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1839 Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, praised at its premiere by no less a fan than composer Robert Schumann as “the master-trio of our time.” Through a fiery “Molto allegro agitato,” a glowing “Andante con moto tranquillo,” a “Scherzo” every bit as “light and brisk” as its tempo marking, and a white-hot “Allegro assai appassionato,” these young artists maintained a remarkably seamless blend and sensitive balance among the contrasting sonorities of their instruments. 

This triumphant season finale was further enhanced by informative and entertaining spoken introductions to the music from all three musicians, the burnished warmth of the theater’s acoustic in this northern Connecticut venue, and the wide international scope of the performers and composers.