The Newport Beach Recital Series continued its second season with "An International Piano Trio." Note the an , as there is no established ensemble. Instead, artistic director Leonid Levitsky convened a one-time assemblage that played before a very-far-from-capacity audience at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Sunday afternoon.
After only three rehearsals, pianist Levitsky, violinist Alexander Brussilovsky and cellist Bion Tsang--supposedly representing Russia, France and the United States, respectively (although Brussilovsky is actually an Ukrainian emigre who has made his home in France just since 1985)--made a much stronger case for themselves as individuals than as a unified group. Each evidenced dazzling technique and musical security in works by Tanya French, Shostakovich and Brahms. Tsang, in particular, conveyed insight and passion during his solo passages.
Throughout, they applied admirable energy and determination. The closing movement of Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio, in E minor, thrived in an inviting and forbidding aura, full of heavy-handed accents, biting tone and relentless thrust. The Allegro con brio was a boisterous free-for-all.
Not surprisingly, however, much that one might expect from more constant performing companions appeared with spotty frequency on this occasion. Together, the three discovered plenty of big, loud (and louder) and expansive sections in the mature version of Brahms' B-major Trio, but only glimmers of its mystery or its sensual impact, only hints of potential colors or subtle shifts of balance.
French's "Silhouettes at Sunrise," in four enigmatically titled movements, borrows significantly from Shostakovich's rhythmically driven, ostinato-born style, except for its abrupt and hackneyed ending. It fared well in an anxious and animated reading.