Chamber Music|OC featuring Trio Céleste and Special Guest Artists in Review

Chamber Music|OC featuring Trio Céleste and Special Guest Artists in Review

Chamber Music|OC featuring Trio Céleste and Special Guest Artists
Trio Céleste: Iryna Krechkovsky, violin; Ross Gasworth, cello; Kevin Kwan Loucks, piano
Chamber Music |OC Young Artist- Reina Cho, cello, Leo Matsuoka, violin, Brandon Sin, cello
Special Guests: Eugene Drucker, violin; Philip Setzer, violin; Marta Krechkovsky, violin; April Kim, violin; Yuri Cho, violin; Hanna Lee, viola; David Samuel, viola; Colin Carr, cello
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
April 15, 2017

Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall was the venue for a concert presented by Chamber Music|OC on April 15, 2017. On the program were three works – two established masterpieces of chamber music, Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90, the “Dumky,” and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20, plus the World Premiere of Concerto Grosso for Piano Trio and String Octet by Paul Dooley (b. 1983).

Chamber Music| OC is based in Orange County California. Launched in 2012 by Kevin Kwan Loucks and Iryna Krechkovsky, Chamber Music | OC is dedicated to advancing the art of chamber music through performance, education, and community outreach. Mr. Loucks and Ms. Krechkovsky , along with cellist Ross Gasworth, form Trio Céleste, the featured ensemble. Also included were members of the Chamber Music|OC Young Artists program, and many special guests, including founding members of the famed Emerson Quartet Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer.

Trio Céleste ( took its name after the first meeting of the players in New York City, upon seeing the largest harvest moon in two decades – “a rare celestial occurrence.” Now with a full calendar of recitals nationally and internationally, a recently released recording (Navona Records – Trio Céleste ), and an impressive list of distinguished collaborators, it is obvious that this is a group on the rise. Each of the members has a long list of honors and accolades as soloists. What remained to be seen is how well they meshed as an ensemble. Often when talented individuals come together, the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

Let’s get a long-standing gripe of this reviewer out of the way- the lack of program notes. While it was good that notes were provided for the World Premiere work, it was a lost opportunity to educate many in the audience by not including program notes for the Dvořák and Mendelssohn. While they are well-known works, it would not be unreasonable to assume that at least one hundred members in the audience were hearing these works for the very first time, and would have been interested in knowing the meaning behind “Dumky” and that Mendelssohn was only sixteen when he wrote his Octet. On the other hand, it was above and beyond to include pictures and biographies of EVERY participant.

Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90, the “Dumky,” was the first work on the program. Written in 1891, this is one the great works in the genre, and one that has a rich performance history by some of the most distinguished ensembles. One might think that these young players were aiming too high in selecting this work, that they need to let it mature over many more years before offering it in concert, but in this case one would be completely mistaken. What was immediately apparent was the rapport the players have, which usually takes many years to develop to such a high level. The players as individuals were sparkling, and ensemble balance and intonation were flawless in a way that I have often found lacking with other (and often far more experienced) ensembles. The essence of this wonderful work was projected with skill and understanding that can hold its own with any more established ensembles. I might have started as a doubter, but ended as a believer. It was a first-rate performance that had me eagerly awaiting the following works.

Following the Dvořák was the World Premiere of a work commissioned by Trio Céleste and Chamber Music |OC for this concert, the Concerto Grosso for Piano Trio and String Octet (2017) by Paul Dooley. Mr. Dooley has a long-standing relationship with Mr. Loucks (they attended the same High School), and he expressed being honored to write this piece for Mr. Loucks and his colleagues. Mr. Dooley writes that his work is inspired by the concerto grossi of Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti, with the trio taking the part of the concertino, and the octet the part of the ripieno. It is a three-movement (the movements simply marked as I. II. and III) work that showed Mr. Dooley’s mastery of the form, but with contemporary harmony.

Forming the String Octet were violinists Marta Krechkovsky, April Kim, Yuri Cho, violists Hanna Lee and David Samuel, and future stars from the Chamber Music OC| Young Artists, violinist Leo Matsuka (age 16), and cellists Reina Cho (age 15) and Brandon Shin (age 12).

As the players were taking the stage and readying themselves, Mr. Loucks took out his phone to take a picture of the audience before starting the Concerto Grosso. “You all look so good,” he quipped to the delight of the audience.

This work was played with brio by the combined forces, in what was an impressive display from all eleven performers. One can’t imagine that there was a lot of rehearsal time, which made the achievement all the more striking.

This listener thoroughly enjoyed the Concerto Grosso, but his favorite was the eerie second movement, which sounded like a musical depiction of a nightmare, or at least some rather unsettled dreams. After the high energy final movement, the audience roared in approval. The composer was in attendance and came to the stage to embrace Mr. Loucks and accept the audience’s enthusiastic ovation. It was a nice end to the first half.

After intermission, Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major. Op. 20 was to be the last work of the evening. Joining Trio Céleste for the Octet were violinist Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer, Yuri Cho, violists Hanna Lee and David Samuel, and cellist Colin Carr – a group of “heavy hitters” to be sure! The eight players meshed beautifully. The Octet is demanding enough even apart from ensemble issues, but these musicians were in their element. What a treat it was to hear this performance, a rare opportunity for the reviewer to sit back and enjoy, when there is really nothing to quibble about. From the exquisite control of the Allegro moderato ma con fuoco to the thrilling Presto, it was without a doubt one of the best performances of the Octet this listener has heard.

The audience gave the players a standing ovation, which was richly deserved. Trio Céleste is a group to watch, and I hope to hear them again in the future.