News & Features » Miscellany

The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio plays music that sustains the mind and spirit.

Music from the Heart


Highly sought-after composer Richard Danielpour has written music for superstars — the Guarneri String Quartet, Jessye Norman, the New York Philharmonic, Yo-Yo Ma and the New York City Ballet. However, a special work that will receive its Richmond premiere on April 15 was written for a small child. Danielpour's piano trio "A Child's Reliquary" was written to commemorate the drowning death of an 18-month-old boy. The work, which Danielpour describes as a wordless "Kindertotenlieder" will be performed at Virginia Commonwealth University by the piano trio of Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson and Joseph Kalichstein.

Robinson, the trio's cellist, says "A Child's Reliquary" is programmatic, meaning there are audible references to real-life events and situations. "In the last movement you hear snippets of Brahms' Lullaby," she explains, adding that in certain places the music is meant to evoke the sense of being underwater. Knowing the genesis of the music may heighten the audience's emotional response, but Robinson stresses that there's more to the music than its desperately sad program. "It's not all morose," she reflects. "If you don't know the story, it's [still] wonderful music. It's just beautiful."

Robinson describes Danielpour's music as "witty, challenging and quite melodic." The Trio's consensus is that the contemporary music they will perform must be, as Robinson puts it, "music of the heart ... not just music of the cerebral cortex." While rehearsing the new piece, the Trio was excited that, in contrast to some contemporary music, the Danielpour piece has "actual tunes." Robinson reports, "The tunes have started to haunt us. ...We can't get the melodies out of our heads."

The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio debuted in high style at President Carter's inauguration in January 1977. Since then, the group has built a reputation as one of the world's great piano trios while maintaining individual solo careers. Violinist Jaime Laredo, in particular, has taken on numerous conducting responsibilities. With such an active schedule, this ensemble is used to learning repertoire on the fly. Between concert dates in Amsterdam, the Trio is rehearsing "A Child's Reliquary" in a hotel room. They have spent months on their individual parts and eagerly await the opportunity to perform the new Danielpour work live. Robinson observes that as much as the ensemble studies the score and rehearses the music, "You never really understand everything until you play it in public."

The Trio's Richmond appearance will be only the second performance of the Danielpour composition; every live performance gives these musicians another chance to gauge balance, acoustics and the audience's reaction. The Trio will also present the rhapsodic Brahms B Major Trio and a work by Beethoven.

Laredo, Robinson's husband, indirectly muses on the importance of a work like Danielpour's. "I'm not one of those people who feels gloom and doom about classical music," he says. "People have a need for classical music. It's like food. It's like water. That's never going to stop." That need might stem from what music does uniquely well — expressing the inexpressible, and in the instance of "A Child's Reliquary," giving voice to inexpressible grief.

Add a comment