The Grand Opera House in Wilmington showcases an all-star team

     Evgeny Kissin | Itzhak Perlman | Mischa Maisky (photo courtesy of The Grand Opera House)

    Evgeny Kissin | Itzhak Perlman | Mischa Maisky (photo courtesy of The Grand Opera House)

    A celebrity chamber group delivers the first sold-out performance of classical music at The Grand in 10 years.

    Celebrity chamber performances are a rare occurrence in classical music. Getting such strong personalities and prodigious talents to work together as an ensemble can be a daunting task. Sometimes the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

    That did not happen Tuesday night at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington when the all-star team of pianist Evgeny Kissin, violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Mischa Maisky joined together to deliver masterful renderings of two of the most celebrated works in the piano-trio repertoire by Schubert (No. 1 in B-Flat Major) and Tchaikovsky (Op.50 in A minor). These three distinct soloists demonstrated how they could play as individuals while coming together in total accord.

    The collaboration coincided with a season-long celebration of Perlman’s 70th birthday which includes album releases and worldwide tours. On November 24, President Barack Obama bestowed Perlman with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

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    The concert, which is to be performed tonight at New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall, was the first sold-out performance of classical music at The Grand in 10 years. It was also the inaugural event in The Renaissance Concert Series, a pilot program supported by Tatiana and Gerret Copeland to re-introduce classical music at The Grand following the economic downturn of 2008.

    The event drew a host of local and regional notables, including Governor Jack Markell and wife Carla, Senator Tom Carper and wife Martha, and Delaware Symphony Orchestra Music Director David Amado and Executive Director Alan Jordan. Also in attendance were Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin and President and CEO Allison Vulgamore as well as Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers.

    The first half of the program featured Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1 in B-Flat Major, Op. 99 (D. 898). This work was started in 1827 and finished in 1828, the final year of the composer’s young life. From the opening notes of the Allegro moderato, the ensemble demonstrated its mastery in bringing out the deeply romantic expressions that have made this trio one of Schubert’s most cherished chamber works.

    This was assertive and confident playing with a strong full-bodied sound led by an energetic Kissin. Perlman’s rich, singing tone captured the optimistic essence of the movement, allowing Schubert’s melodies to melt the heart. Maisky’s solo in the second movement was sheer artistry. The Rondo finale was played with gusto to the end.

    The second half of the program was dedicated to Tchaikovsky’s impassioned Piano Trio in A Minor (“In Memory to a Great Artist”), Op. 50. The great artist in question was the composer’s friend and mentor Nikolai Rubinstein.

    This is a massive work clocking in at more than 40 minutes even if played at a brisk tempo. Its virtuosic passages make it the ideal work for high-profile soloists wishing to play chamber music. The piano part is as demanding as any in the concerto repertoire. It requires a pianist of unflagging energy and an easy virtuosity and that’s exactly what it got from Kissin. He allowed the piano to dominate when necessary but never let it overpower the strings.

    The ensemble was impressively colorful in the theme and the set of 12 variations which make up the composition’s second movement, deftly changing moods and textures without so much as a thought. There were some beautifully delicate pizzicato passages. Variation Six, Tempo di Valse, exhibited a light playfulness. The fugue had all the intensity and joy of Bach and the musicians reacted accordingly. The massive, funereal finale closed the program with the full power and scope of any symphony.

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