Trio Plays Tchaikovsky

Violinist James Ehnes will appear in concert at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium on Tuesday,
May 31, at 7:30 p.m. with his colleagues, cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Adam Neiman.
The program will consist of the Dumky Trio by Antonin Dvorak in the first half and the Piano
Trio in A minor by Pyotr Tchaikovsky after the intermission.

The piano trio carried a great deal of emotional weight for Tchaikovsky. His wealthy patroness,
Nadezhda von Meck, wrote to him in 1880 asking him to compose a piano trio for her resident
trio. Tchaikovsky declined. He offered the opinion that a piano cannot blend with the other two
instruments. More likely, this was merely an excuse because he was more interested in pursuing
other projects. It has also been suggested that he may have been jealous of von Meck’s resident
pianist, a brilliant Parisian teenager named Claude Debussy.

Less than a year later, Nicolai Rubinstein died. He was a towering figure in Russian
music—pianist, teacher, conductor, and administrator of the conservatory. Tchaikovsky decided to
compose a trio in his memory, one with a piano part so virtuosic as to be worthy of the great man.
He wrote to von Meck that he had changed his mind about composing a trio but added that it
might not turn out well. He need not have worried.

The trio is a monumental work over forty minutes in length, conceived in two movements. The
cello introduces the first emotion-laden melody, after which it is taken up by the other instruments
in turn. He develops this melody and two others throughout the first movement.

The second movement is built around a theme and variations. The piano presents the theme alone,
a cheery melody in a major key. Eleven variations follow, each one providing an imaginative new
take on the melody.

A closing section, long enough that some call it a third movement, returns to the opening melody
in a dramatic and powerful way before the piece ends in a funeral march that fades out on the
piano. Tchaikovsky hurried to complete it for a performance on the anniversary of Rubinstein’s

The cello part will be brought to life in the hands of Bion Tsang. Currently a professor in Austin,
Texas, he enjoys a busy performing career in solo recitals, chamber music performances, and as
soloist with major orchestras. He has produced highly-acclaimed recordings and played on
soundtracks for movies that have won awards. His latest recording is a two-CD set of the Bach
cello suites.

Find tickets to this powerful performance by some remarkable musicians online at . They are available at $28 for adults and $15 for students. Doors
will open at 6:45 p.m. For more information, call 604-289-3377.

John Wiebe
The Valley Concert Society