Within the pristine white interiors and stained-glass windows of Second Presbyterian Church, the Charleston Piano Trio closed the Piccolo Spoleto Spotlight Concert Series on Thursday.

Violinist Yuriy Bekker, music director of the series, along with two other internationally renowned musicians, cellist Natalia Khoma and pianist Volodymyr Vynnytsky, presented two pieces by classical composers Joseph Haydn and Ernest Chausson in an hour-long performance that was intense, rich and melodious.

The trio took on Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 39 in G major, “Gypsy,” and Chausson’s Piano Trio in G minor, Opus 3, with a narrative-like skill. The audience was riveted as the violin, cello and piano worked independently and cohesively to convey the melancholy, joy and sorrow the composers intended.  

Bekker prefaced the performance with a little background on the compositions. The “Gypsy” reference in Haydn’s most well-known trio relates back to folk music themes from Ukraine, a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As for French composer, painter and poet Chausson, his prolific trio in four movements worked perfectly to define his ability in creating a rich narrative-like invention.

Haydn’s first movement, andante, is moderately paced, used by Bekker to begin the concert on a joyful, hopeful tune before transitioning to a dramatic section and ending with the whole trio in a flourish. It flowed into the adagio, which had pianist Vynnytsky take cheerful precedence followed by a dense, ominous tune by cellist Khoma. Bekker interjected and filled the air with notes of glory which slowed down before the return of the piano to the forefront, building momentum and ending swiftly in a combined melody. In the quick-paced rondo, all three artists rose in equal measure, responding to one another not just with their instruments but with facial expressions as well. There was an intermediate moment of a single breath before Vynnytsky set the hurried pace to end the “Gypsy” in a perfectly timed, combined theatrical crescendo.

Chausson’s trio was defined by peaks and valleys, beginning with a somber, dark piano note and a melancholic violin tune. Vynnytsky’s soft touch on the piano created an image of stars falling from the night sky while Bekker introduced notes of doom. As the piano faded, the violin and cello rose, powerfully giving way to soft, delicate notes reminiscent of a Viennese Waltz. The second movement is much shorter, with the piano continuing its role as an antagonist with restriction from both stringed instruments. The third movement, recalling the first, is marked by notes of passion and melancholy with a sustained piano melody.

The Chausson trio ends with an anime best described as tempestuous. The pace built rapidly with a stellar delivery by Khoma. Evolving from a lull depicting sadness, a joyful mood rose intensely with a piano fortissimo. There was a moment’s pause before the grand finale arrived in suspense, ending in a climactic fashion by the trio.

The Spotlight Concert Series presented a variety of nine musical works including instrumental performances to orchestral symphonies, to much acclaim through the duration of Piccolo Spoleto. This finale by the piano trio rounded off the series on a beautiful note bringing Haydn and Chausson to life in a vibrant display of musical mastery.

This review was written independently at Spoleto Festival, USA, 2019