Honest emotion meets artistic insight
With a deeply felt performance of Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, the Gould Piano Trio closed a wonderful three-part program Wednesday in the Bing Theater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Smetana composed the work upon the death of his 4-year-old daughter, Bedriska, from scarlet fever. It will not tolerate a moment of insincerity or exaggeration from the players. Violinist Lucy Gould, cellist Alice Neary and pianist Benjamin Frith met its emotional demands with the highest commitment and deepest artistic insight, seamlessly moving through its shifting, conflicting states of feeling while revealing their complexities and nuances.
To single out just one example: There’s a moment in the first movement when a noble cello theme mounts into an impassioned, then almost hysterical ensemble climax. Shortly after, the movement breaks down and stops, only to start over again from the beginning, with a repeat of the violin’s keening motive. The cycle of grief is endless. All this was detailed with the most natural sense of inevitability by the Gould musicians.
Similarly, they revealed the exposed, vulnerable heart of Brahms in the vernal simplicity of the third movement of his Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor.
Everywhere, they played with unanimity of impulse and aesthetic. In Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat, Opus 1, No. 1, which opened the program, they added impishness and urbane playfulness.
Their range and variety made for a joyful evening.