words by Tyler Walczak
Recently, the highly praised Prometheus Trio, comprised of Stefanie Jacob on piano, Scott Tisdel on cello and Timothy Klabunde on violin, performed at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. The Trio brings a lot of experience to the table, members having played with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra and numerous other organizations. This being my first live classical performance, I am pleased it was with such talented musicians.
The crowd settled in as the president of the Conservatory gave a few words of welcome and introduced the Trio. As the musicians stepped onto the dais and calmly checked the tuning on their instruments, I realized how intimate this performance would be. Being no more than twenty feet away from the front of the stage, I felt as if I were attending a concert in my own home (incidentally, since the Conservatory had once been a private residence, this feeling was actually somewhat appropriate).
The Trio began with Piano Trio in F, K. 497, a version of Mozart’s Piano Duet of 1786, arranged by John Cooley for three instruments instead of two. To someone who is not completely familiar with the world of classical music, this piece is just what I imagined it to be: at times passionate, at times pleasant, most of the time something I could picture a person in a dusty white wig playing. JoAnne, the kind and informative woman sitting beside me said it was “typical Mozart, for listening to with your family on a Sunday afternoon”, and I feel this is fitting.
The second piece, Trio in F-sharp Minor (1957), is the work of a rather obscure Armenian composer named Arno Babadjanian (1921-1983). Once the playing commenced, the atmosphere immediately shifted into one more serious, passionate and powerful than before. The three instruments blended masterfully, sharing the spotlight equally. Two of the instruments subtly shifted back, allowing the third to come into focus, and after a time, they traded. After the first movement, someone in the audience let out a whispered “wow”, and this about summed up my feelings for this piece that ended up being my favorite of the night.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) made an appearance in the Trio’s performance of his Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 63 (1847). The most notable movement from this piece, to me, was the second. More energetic than the first movement, this part had a bouncing, climbing feeling, like someone in the clouds hopping up a staircase, floating down a bit, and springing back up again. The communication and balance between the musicians was impressive. At times, they seemed like three appendages of the same being, and at others, they seemed to be three distinct entities, each coming from a different direction, all converging into audio deliciousness by the time the soundwaves reached my ears.
One thing that surprised me — and I am still not sure how frequently this type of thing happens in classical music — is that after the third and final scheduled piece concluded, the Trio returned to the stage to perform an encore. The piece chosen was by Schumann and, according to Jacob, was originally written for the pedal-flugel, a type of piano that incorporates an additional keyboard operated by the feet. It was slower paced, less intense, and a fine way to cool down from the energy of the last piece.
Overall, this inaugural classical concert of mine made a great impression on me. The Trio seemed to genuinely enjoy playing, having as much fun as the audience. The Prometheus Trio’s talented, intimate performance is one that I definitely plan to see again.