The Power of Three

Trio season hits Eugene

Above: Trio Con Brio. Below: Project Trio.
Above: Trio Con Brio. Below: Project Trio.

The Fab Four, Four Seasons, Four Tops, Gang of Four, Emerson Quartet, Takacs Quartet: Why do foursomes get all the musical attention? Everyone composes for string quartets and bands made up of two guitars, bass and drum. But in classical music as well as jazz and rock, trios offer more transparency and a lighter, often tighter sound. A trio of trios heading our way this fall reveals the power of three.

Chamber Music Amici

Oct. 27, Wildish Theater

The ensemble composed primarily of present and former University of Oregon faculty members opens its sixth season with a program featuring one of the great Romantic piano trios: one by Brahms, a sparkling Classical trio by Haydn and, to its great credit, a contemporary piece by an Oregon composer, David Bernstein, who founded Cascadia Composers. The first movement of his 1990 piano trio, Late Autumn Moods and Images, includes phrases from the Protestant hymn tune “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” while the second incorporates tunes from Jewish and Hebrew songs and dances. The third and final movement embraces a range of styles and techniques.

“There’s a billion string quartets,” Bernstein explains. “Why do I need to add another one? I have been to many, many concerts that feature famous string quartet groups. As a composer and listener, I find a piano trio to be a much more satisfying ensemble to listen to and write for.

“The piano offers a very compelling and powerful voice to the overall sound structure of the group,” Bernstein continues. “And yet it is very supporting of the strings as well. So you have the contrasting timbre, a huge range and something that melts beautifully into the string timbre yet is different enough from them. You have the best of everything with the piano as a foundation.”


Nov. 6, Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd 

Oddball instrumentation — flute, cello, double bass — isn’t the only thing distinguishing this young threesome from traditional classical trios. Although they’ve performed with major orchestras including Cleveland’s and Houston’s, the Brooklyn-based band dresses informally, improvises, plays jazz and their own original music as well as classics (including an arrangement of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf set in Brooklyn). And leader Greg Pattillo may be the only beat-box flutist in classical music. This trio’s high-energy shows bubble with quick humor, tight playing and fun — something else seldom found in classical music.

Trio con Brio Copenhagen

Nov. 16, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon

Like Amici, these prize-winning Danish players (including a pair of sisters originally from Korea) feature the music of their homeland in concerts. Along with the same Brahms trio Amici’s performing, plus Tchaikovsky’s Romantic classic (a rare chance to hear the renowned composer’s music for smaller forces), they’ll play contemporary Danish composer Per Norgard’s Spell. When they performed it last year in Portland, Oregon ArtsWatch’s Jeff Winslow wrote: “If Spell were a woman, I’d be moved to ask in all wide-eyed seriousness, where have you been all my life?”