The spirit of Mischa Schneider hovered smilingly over UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall
on Sunday afternoon. Cellist of the Budapest Quartet of fond memory, teacher
and saintly friend to all chamber-music players, Schneider is now celebrated
in “Music for Mischa,” a moveable chamber-music feast that began its fifth
season on Sunday before a sizable if not capacity crowd.
The series has been organized by two former members of another distinguished,
much-missed quartet, the Sequoia: violinist Miwako Watanabe (who did not
participate in Sunday’s concert) and cellist Robert Martin, who decidedly
did. Together with violinist Barbara Govatos and pianist Cynthia Raim, Martin
performed in an elegant and challenging program of trios, by Haydn, Beethoven
and Dvorak. Govatos, by the way, is a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra,
who flew in to replace the scheduled violinist, Sylvia Rosenberg, recently
injured in a car accident (but currently on the mend).
Trios for piano, violin and cello are a special and cherishable class of
chamber music. They were an extremely popular form of house entertainment
around 1800; Haydn and Beethoven even arranged some of their orchestral works
for trio; as with records in a later age, this was the way you got to hear,
say, a Haydn or Beethoven symphony in your own home.
The Mischa group, however, chose works originally composed for trio: an A-
major Trio by Haydn dating from his last years, and the C-minor Trio from
Beethoven’s Opus 1 — two works actually created in the same year (1793) by
composers of succeeding generations. The contrast was striking: the Haydn,
full of forward-looking harmonic adventures, the Beethoven delightfully
poised between classicism and his own dramatic musical language in its
formative years.
At the end came a seldom-heard Dvorak trio, the F minor, Opus 65: hearty,
robust romanticism, perhaps a bit too crammed with oratorical gesture, but
graced with a most enchanting slow movement. Throughout the afternoon the
playing was skilled, and also colored with a fine sense of fantasy. One thing
that Mischa Schneider always epitomized was the love of whatever he was
doing; that has become the hallmark, as well, of the players’ organization
that honors his name.

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