Chung, Larson, Bae Trio | Three Strands

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Three Strands

by Chung, Larson, Bae Trio

Three award-winning musicians and lifelong friends come together for performances of Brahms' piano trios.
Genre: Classical: Brahms
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101: I. Allegro energico
7:50 $1.99
2. Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101: II. Presto non assai
3:40 $0.99
3. Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101: III. Andante grazioso
4:16 $0.99
4. Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101: IV. Allegro molto
5:51 $1.99
5. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87: I. Allegro
9:51 $1.99
6. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87: II. Andante con moto
7:58 $0.99
7. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87: III. Scherzo. Presto - Poco meno presto
5:06 $0.99
8. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87: IV. Finale. Allegro giocoso
5:51 $1.99
9. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 8: I. Allegro con brio
11:05 $1.99
10. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 8: II. Scherzo. Allegro molto - Meno allegro
6:28 $0.99
11. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 8: III. Adagio
7:39 $0.99
12. Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 8: IV. Finale. Allegro
6:33 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Becoming “Three Strands”

Soo, Elizabeth and I decided to play together one sunny afternoon in Boston. The idea came up spontaneously, but it came as no surprise. Our friendship has been a rich one that goes back roughly 20 years, so it only seemed natural that we would work together one day. Thus, relationship outside of music birthed collaboration, and not the opposite, which is more often the norm in professional chamber music.

However, the decision to collaborate has had its challenges. We are three friends who live in three different cities on opposite coasts and we have very busy lives. We love to eat, laugh, cry (sometimes laugh until we cry), and share great stories together. Our personalities mesh extremely well, but how could we possibly sound like a working trio when we are rarely in the same place at the same time? Somehow, our three perspectives had to come together as one— like three strands of a braid. Logistics were not on our side, so we set our sights on a different goal: honesty and freshness. Since then, we have tapped the strength of our friendship and knowledge of each other to create performances that reflect these qualities.

Upon making this decision, we had to choose what our first major project would be. Almost instantly, we decided to play Brahms, a master chamber music composer whose works demand much from the hearts, hands and heads of musicians. His trios are unsurpassed— they are the “Everest” of the medium.

Brahms’ piano trios speak powerfully to the performer and listener because their emotional richness is balanced with the most sophisticated craftsmanship. It is hard to imagine more satisfying pieces to play. Each time we return to these works, new ideas and approaches emerge, and what’s more, we come to understand each other better through them. At the same time, the trios are uncompromisingly difficult, because they come from different aesthetic universes. Our aim, therefore, is to explore the emotional truth in each, while demonstrating the variety in Brahms’ approach.

Brahms most certainly aimed for honesty and freshness when he composed the original Op. 8 trio at the young age of 20 (1853-4). He was youthful, brimming with enthusiasm for the medium and profuse. He went on and on in the original version in a manner completely foreign to his succinct Op. 101 trio, which he composed some 32 years later in 1886. These outpourings of romantic and idealistic thought in the original version made the work unwieldy, thus giving Brahms cause to doubt. On a couple of occasions, he questioned his aesthetic judgment. Clara Schumann, a pianist, composer and wife of Robert Schumann, even suggested he replace the first movement. Finally, in 1888, when Fritz Simrock purchased the rights to all of Brahms’ published compositions for republication in a new edition, Brahms jumped at the chance to make the changes he had wanted, resulting in the 1889 revision, which you hear on this recording. After some cutting, pasting, replacement of themes, and other adjustments, Brahms achieved a much tighter work that balances emotional honesty with structural integrity and cohesion.

Our own thinking regarding this work has gone through a similar process of change. Having encountered it separately as younger musicians, we naturally gravitated towards its external beauty and emotional appeal. The poignant melodies of the first movement, the jaunty, tricky rhythms and interactions of the second, the transcendent harmonies of the third and the breathtaking suspense and drama of the fourth, drew us back to a place of comfort. But, familiarity begs reexamination. Brahms’ love of counterpoint and his laser sharp craftsmanship and attention to structural detail have challenged us to think and re-think our original impressions of the work. Changed by the passing of time and keenly aware of his mind for architectural integrity, we then decided to pursue an interpretation that is genuine, but keeps our own emotions in check.

To our minds, the Op. 87 trio of 1880-2 is best described by the word “organic.” Unlike his experience with Op. 8, Brahms was very satisfied with this work from the get-go. Mature, and confident in his success as a composer, he wrote the following words to his publisher, “You have not yet had such a beautiful trio from me and very likely have not published its equal in the last ten years.”

Small, motivic ideas flow from one to the next in the most natural manner, like a vine that grows upward with branches that yield an endless variety of new ones. The ideas seem new, but are intimately tied to the opening one in shape and rhythm. In the first movement, the counterpoint that emerges between the three instruments is at once intriguing and challenging. We tug at one another in this interaction as the rhythmic stress changes between parts, and we feel relief when a long melody suddenly interrupts the texture. The Hungarian gypsy character of the second movement with its theme and variations, the skittish third movement with its warm and hospitable middle section (one of our favorite moments) and the dry wit of the finale, require an unparalleled level of musical sophistication and awareness. Despite its organically grown nature, not a single phrase rolls off the instruments easily. We have had to consider each one over and over again.

Nowhere is careful thought more vital than in Brahms’ last trio, his Op. 101. Composed three years before the revision of his Op. 8, Brahms’ cerebral side emerges here in full force. It is hard to believe that the melodies of Op. 8 are from the same composer. In the first movement, the ideas are terse, stormy and angular, or simple and linear. The interactions of the instruments highlight this kind of contrast as discombobulated rhythmic stresses give way to a smoother, more unified texture. The second movement, which brings forth an economy of ideas and a counterpoint of rhythmic gestures that fit together like puzzle pieces, is followed by the lilting lullaby of the third movement with its alternation of 3/4 and 2/4 or 9/8 and 6/8 meter in the Eastern European or Serbian style. Finally, the last movement begins with precision, strength and vigor only to give way to a free and rhapsodic expression.

The lean textures of the Op. 101 trio really demand clear heads as well as full hearts. Brahms’ love of clarified counterpoint and his spare ideas beg even greater mental awareness on our part. We can’t stop thinking. Sometimes in rehearsal, one of us would say, “I just want to feel.”

And so the story goes from heart to head and back again. This is, after all, the very essence of Brahms’ own creative journey. He weaves distilled emotion together with the disciplined craftsmanship of the mind that they might become one— just like our three strands.

-Mia Chung



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