If Ann Murray of the International Music Foundation hadn’t introduced the Bowlin-Li-Myer Trio as making their world debut there is no way the audience would have guessed that this were so. The three consummate musicians seemed to know each other intimately, perhaps because they all share the same love for sincerity in performance that now draws them together as a trio.
Cellist Si-Yan Darren Li, speaking for the trio explains, “We would hope our audiences hear sincerity in our music-making above all. Sincerity is something we feel we can hear easily in performances of live music. We hope to convey a desire to bring the composer’s voice to life. In addition, we hope the listeners will notice and enjoy the variety in the harmonies and the way that each of the pieces tells a story, the Brahms being more like a novel and the Piazzolla being more like a short story or poem.”
Li is referring to the two pieces of their program. First up was a short five-minute “Primavera Porteña for Violin, Cello and Piano by Ástor Piazzolla, one of the composer’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” tangos. The much longer “Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87” by Johannes Brahms had four movements.
What the WFMT listeners hearing a simulcast couldn’t see was how each of the performers creased their brows as if they too were overcome by how exquisite their music was. Spencer Myer, the pianist, was beaming at his fellow musicians after they completed a sweet back-forth conversation with violin and cello in the first movement of the Brahms piece. The trio brought out the sweet, yearning sounds of the Brahms trio’s second movement with the instruments seeming to sing the melody as they swayed playing their instruments. Their precision in the fast-paced third movement was flawless. The energy seemed to naturally peak in the finale.
Again speaking for the trio Li says, “We love the trio repertoire because each instrument plays an equally important role. There are certain larger combinations of instruments in chamber music that yield a more soloist/accompaniment impression, but each person in a trio is an equal contributor.
“The Brahms Trio in C Major is one of our favorites of the trio repertoire. It embodies all the qualities of music-making we hold dear: honesty, passion, style, sweeping melodies, etc. We thought the best coupling with this Brahms Trio would be something completely contrasting, which was how we arrived at the Piazzolla. In many ways these two pieces make for an unusual combination—perhaps their juxtaposition is somewhat experimental. But both of them represent a summation and glorious extension of their own inherited traditions.”
It will be a great loss if the Bowlin-Li-Myer Trio doesn’t perform again and often.
The three musicians have played together in various combinations in duos for years. Violinist David Bowlin, familiar to frequenters of the frequent International Contemporary Ensemble performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art, has known pianist Spencer Myer since their undergraduate days at Oberlin. They met Si-Yan Darren Li when the three were students at Juilliard.” Li says, “I think we are drawn to the honest and expressive qualities of each other’s playing; it seemed clear that we would mesh as a chamber ensemble.”
It’s interesting that these musicians stress the honesty they hear in the music and strive to bring to their performance. Each has been playing their instrument since they were five or six years old and each brings well-honed instincts for sincerity in music to come to bear on their performance.
Thanks to the International Music Foundation for bringing these talents to regale us.
Dame Myra Hess concerts are a great way to break up your week.
They are held at 12:15 every Wednesday (except upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Wednesdays or Lincoln’s Birthday) in the Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Randolph
This concert was a superb way to end the year!
For a schedule of 2014 concerts visit the Dame Myra Hess Concert web pages.
Photos: In Preston Bradley Hall by Amy Munice; all others courtesy of Bowlin-Li-Myer Trio.