Chamber music concert spans eras

St. Petersburg Times, FL
April 28 2004

Chamber music concert spans eras
By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic

ST. PETERSBURG – The Moretti-Polera-Kluksdahl Trio brought this
season’s Encore Chamber Music Series to a brilliant close Tuesday
night at the Palladium Theater. The program ranged from a pillar of
the repertoire, Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, to the
premiere of St. Petersburg composer Vernon Taranto Jr.’s Second Trio.

Most thrillingly, the group – Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin and
concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra; Scott Kluksdahl, cello; and
Noreen Cassidy-Polera, piano – wound up with a virtuosic performance
of Paul Schoenfield’s dashing Cafe Music.

It was fascinating to hear the Mendelssohn and Schoenfield back to
back. Mendelssohn’s trio is a model of form, including the stunning
sonata-allegro first movement, a lavish melody in the second, the
quicksilver scherzo of the third movement and a passionate chorale in
the climax.

However, for all the excellent, brightly paced play – Polera’s
glittering 16th-note runs, the singing tone of Moretti, Kluksdahl’s
expressive phrasing – the piece seemed to take its own sweet time to
make its points. The classical and romantic forms that governed
Mendelssohn’s world tended to produce music that strikes the modern
ear as a bit longwinded.

The aesthetic distance from the 19th century to today became clear in
Schoenfield’s quick-witted Cafe Music, full of jazzy licks and
complex rhythms, with a sardonic undertone that suggested none of it
should be taken too seriously. The three-movement piece was
breathtakingly difficult to perform, but the trio made it look almost
easy. Schoenfield, born in 1947, sounds like his generation’s
long-lost heir to Gershwin and Rodgers, and it would be a shame if he
wasn’t given a chance to breathe some life into musical theater.

Taranto’s trio, which he described as “a kind of fantasia” in the
talkback after the concert, featured lyrical passages for the violin,
and there was a satisfying density to the texture of the work. Polera
created just the right atmosphere of skittering restlessness with the
spare, neo-Debussyian piano part.

The evening’s only dull entry was by the Armenian-American composer
Alan Hovhaness, one of his early works from the 1930s, the Trio in E
minor. The group didn’t find the spiritual quality that is necessary
to animate such simple music.