CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- By the 1980s, many composers of Western art music had rejected the arid rigors of modernism in favor of a more audience-friendly version that gleaned from the old style (think Schoenberg, Webern or Boulez and Cage) while embracing even older notions of Romanticism.
Of course, others, like the French composer Jean Francaix, never went off after the arid forms of modernism in the first place.
His witty, virtuosic Trio in D Major (1986) for violin, cello and piano was the highlight of an excellent program of French music by the German ensemble, Atos Trio, performed for the Charleston Chamber Music Society Saturday evening at Christ Church United Methodist.
The sheer metric variety of the piece is enough to keep the listener on edge. The skittering opening movement slipped into five-beat patterns before jarring them apart with sudden shifts to other meters. The slow movement set quintuple meter throughout (I think) on which hung plenty of melodic warmth. The metric shifts returned dizzyingly in the finale.
Atos Trio played the piece brilliantly with unsparing tone, vitality and superior precision.
Cecile Chaminade's Trio No. 2 in A Minor had audacious playing in its stormy outer movements. Pianist Thomas Hoppe found arresting colors in the very simple harmonies of the slow movement.
Debussy's Trio in G Major was written when he was 17 years old (in 1879). It does not sound like the mature composer that emerged by the 1890's. Atos made it interesting though.
Violinist Annette von Hehn and cellist Stefan Heinemeyer played the opening movement with creamy tone while their pizzicatos melded with Hoppe's punchy chords to give the scherzo a percussive bite.
Heinemeyer played some very harp-like sounds right before the slightly unbalanced (in a good way) ending of the piece.
Faure's Trio in D Minor was played with a salient blend of tone and rich textures that were aglow in depth and detail.
Lili Boulanger's great, little "D'un matin du printemps" had sparkling runs and bouncy rhythms.
A crowd of about 200 attended.