Updated: April 1, 2014 at 10:10 am
A new venue for chamber music, a new ensemble and a musical program likely never attempted in the region - those components were at play Sunday afternoon as the Trio Paradis presented "Unsung Voices: Women in Music" at the Benet Hill Monastery.
There was an underlying air of tragedy at the concert. Trio Paradis is completing its inaugural season. Its founding pianist, Robin Kissinger, died in December after a short illness, and this was the ensemble's first performance since.
Local pianist Angelina Gadeliya took over the keyboard duties, joining founding members Jeri Jorgensen and Pam Chaddon in the monastery's large parish hall.
Benet Hill Monastery offers a beautiful, alpine-like setting, and the concert acoustics are very good for small ensembles. The trio made the most of the setup, producing high-decibel excitement contrasted by intimate poetic grace.
All four composers featured in the concert were women and were famous during their lives, although not necessarily for their own music. Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre was a favorite of Louis XIV at Versailles in the early 1700s. Her well-crafted "D major Sonata" featured Jorgensen's violin while Chaddon's cello mostly doubled Gadeliya's piano. But Baroque music ensembles once again are using harpsichord, and the modern keyboard instrument was unable to provide the preferred textures and temperament.
Germaine Tailleferre was part of the mainstream of Parisian music in the first half of the 20th century and her trio, first written in 1916-17 and revised in 1978, is a small gem. Jorgensen and Chaddon struggled in an ethereal first movement to make their sound seamless but fared better in the more rhythmic later movements. Gadeliya was brilliant, powerful and poetic throughout.
Renowned more as teacher than composer, Nadia Boulanger wrote her "Three Pieces for Cello and Piano" in 1915, and makes music lovers wish she had not stopped this pursuit. Chaddon and Gadeliya hurled themselves at the music and captured the bold imagery and beauty of the work.
The concluding performance of Clara Schumann's "Piano Trio in G minor" from 1846 brought unabashed romanticism to the event and epitomized the strengths and weaknesses of the performances. The players displayed a profound understanding of musical style and fully realized the drama and beauty of all four movements. Gadeliya was rock solid and remarkable in how she conquered varying styles. Jorgensen and Chaddon played without fear but had issues with intonation and accuracy at times.
Yes, this was a performance by women of women, but there was nothing in the playing or the music that could be called "feminine." This was a fine concert free of any gender stereotypes.