Review: Richmond Symphony Summer Series

Daisuke Yamamoto, violin
Yin Zheng, piano
Emmanuel Feldman, cello
Aug. 2, Dominion Energy Center

Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49, is a staple of the chamber literature, well-known to most every pianist, violinist and cellist who plays chamber music. Familiarity, however, doesn’t necessarily translate to mastery in performance for musicians who aren’t regular partners.

Violinist Daisuke Yamamoto, concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony, Virginia Commonwealth University-based pianist Yin Zheng and cellist Emmanuel Feldman, visiting Richmond as a faculty member of VCU’s Global Summer Institute of Music, are not longtime collaborators, and it’s doubtful that they had a great deal of time to rehearse the Mendelssohn before playing it in the latest program of the Richmond Symphony Sumer Series.

Nevertheless, their performance boasted every quality one would want to hear in this piece. You’d swear they had been playing it together for years. They dove into the propulsive, almost explosive passions of the work’s outer movements and treated the intermezzo with just the right touch of winsome lyricism.

Violin and cello tones were so well-matched that Yamamoto and Feldman often sounded to be playing a single instrument, one that projected strongly enough to relieve pianist Zheng from the need to play with reticence.

This was one of the most compelling performances of chamber music heard here in recent years.

Yamamoto and Zheng opened the program with Robert Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, a work of complicated provenance. Schumann wrote its andante and finale as part of the “F.A.E.” (“Frei aber einsam,” or “free but lonely”) Sonata composed in collaboration with Albert Dietrich and Johannes Brahms as a gift for the violinist Joseph Joachim; shortly thereafter, Schumann replaced the work of his collaborators with his own first movement and scherzo. (Both the original and Schumann’s reworked sonata are rarely played. Brahms’ contribution, the Scherzo in C minor, is a popular recital piece.)

The sonata’s “F.A.E.” movements are musically better organized and expressively more coherent than the later material, and the sonata’s alternations of the two generations of the piece pose quite a challenge to interpreters, especially the violinist. Yamamoto gave the work as much continuity as could be managed, and maintained a fair degree of sonic balance with the piece’s busily assertive piano part.

The Richmond Symphony Summer Series continues with concerts by French horn player James Ferree and pianist Russell Wilson on Aug. 9, and by clarinetist David Lemelin and pianist Richard Becker on Aug. 16, both at 6:30 p.m. in the Gottwald Playhouse of Dominion Energy Center, Sixth and Grace streets. Tickets: $18 (limited availability). Details: (804) 788-1212; http://www.richmondsymphony.com

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