The Aspen String Trio


"Masterful Beethoven, Mozart from Aspen Trio at Flagler"
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Rex Hearn, Palm Beach Arts Paper (January 26, 2015)

Simply glorious

"The performance of the Aspen Trio was a rare event. From the first note, the sound of each player was simply glorious. Surely, the superb acoustics were a factor, but even the greatest can’t create such sublime beauty where it doesn’t originally exist.

These musicians have played together for two decades, and they have achieved remarkable results. The ensemble and intonation were perfect. But most importantly, they are musicians for whom every note counts. Each note of each phrase was shaped beautifully — details like brief passages in the Mozart where players were together, before diverting, were brought out flawlessly. Perhaps only a fraction of the audience noticed these details, but the Aspen did, and they cared enough to make sure they came out. Dynamic control was amazing, as was the shape of every phrase, the architecture of every piece.

Encores are rare in chamber music concerts, but this audience would not be denied, so they performed the scherzo of Beethoven’s Trio in C minor, Op. 9, No. 3, to the same standards of the rest of this exquisite recital." Read more

Ken Keaton, Special to the Daily News (January 21, 2015)

"Do you believe in miracles?

I do, because I heard one the other night at the Music Guild concert at Daniel Recital Hall.

The Aspen String Trio played Mozart’s Divertimento in E-flat, K. 563, and the piece is nothing short of miraculous. The composer was at the height of his considerable powers when he wrote it, and that is saying a lot. Somehow three solo string instruments manage to create a full texture, without a piano to assist or a second violin to fill in the gaps. Mozart’s mastery of melody, counterpoint and instrumentation sustains this remarkable work over six movements of varying complexity and mood.

This piece is a triumph of the Classical style, and the Aspen’s performance was equally triumphant. Michael Mermagen’s cello provided a bright, strong foundation, David Perry’s violin soared, and Victoria Chiang’s characterful contributions on viola were delightful. All three were in perfect balance, sometimes in dialogue, other times in unified expression. Whatever challenges the Mozart presented in terms of technique or interpretation were executed with seeming ease." Read more

Jim Ruggirello, Music columnist (November 24, 2014)

"Community Concerts at Second, which offers a remarkable range of free and substantial programs each year, drew a big house for the opening of its 27th season Sunday afternoon showcasing the Aspen String Trio, plus one.

On the first half of the bill, the Aspen players delivered a finely articulated, expressively shaped account of Beethoven's String Trio in D major, Op. 9, No. 2.  The dark lyricism of the Andante, which gives a hint of where the composer would be heading a few years later, emerged with particular effectiveness. (All three trios of Op. 9 will be performed by the ensemble on Oct. 8 at the University of Baltimore.)
Martinu's spicy/sweet Trio No. 2 was delivered with a good deal of flair, aided by violinist David Perry's vibrant phrasing.

The string players were joined by pianist Boris Slutsky for a passionate performance of Dvorak's Piano Quartet No. 2.

Perry... again proved a vivid presence. Michael Mermagen's cello sang out beautifully in the Lento, and Victoria Chiang ensured that the viola lines emerged warmly throughout the piece. For his part, Slutsky offered pristine technique and communicative phrasing.

At the gentlest moments in the score, subtler dynamic levels would have been welcome from all of the musicians, but the intensity and spontaneity they generated carried the day." Read more

Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun music critic (September 25, 2013)
“A spill-over crowd gathered to hear the Aspen String Trio play an all-Beethoven program Sunday afternoon. The Aspen players -- violinist David Perry, violist Victoria Chiang, cellist Michael Mermagen -- demonstrated tight ensemble playing, spot-on intonation and an effective way of digging into a phrase. There was plenty of drama and warmth in the C minor Trio, Op. 9, No. 3. The mix of lyricism and muscle the musicians brought to the G major Trio, Op. 9, No. 1, proved even more impressive; the irresistible, whirling finale -- you can really sense Beethoven showing off here -- was delivered with particular panache"
Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun music critic
Perry, Chiang and Mermagen returned after intermission for the first movement of an otherwise incomplete string trio by Franz Schubert dating from about 20 years after the Beethoven serenade that opened the concert. Like that work, it was written very early in its creator's career (Schubert was 19). This Allegro in B-flat was similarly attractive and unexceptional - until it broke wide open at the beginning of the development section and blossomed into wonderfully characteristic Schubertian harmonic adventures that tugged the heartstrings all over again. Great thanks go to the Aspen musicians for letting us hear this rarity.

The first movement's shifting moods were expressed with equal fervor by all, interweaving especially the strength and beauty of Chiang's viola with the suavity of Perry's violin. The work's second movement was the weightiest and most moving of the whole evening, both in cellist Mermagen's subtle and sensitive solo, which starts it off and in the passionate outbursts that continue it.
The Des Moines Register
It was a pleasure to hear the rock-solid intonation of violinist Dave Perry, and the fluidity with which violist Victoria Chang and cellist Michael Mermagen brought out the inner voices of Brahms' counterpoint without losing the overall arc (with pianist Rita Sloan).
Harvey Steiman, The Aspen Times
Perry, Chiang and Mermagen tapped remarkable lyrical strengths in Beethoven's G major String Trio, Op. 9, No. 1, and tore into its finale with great panache.
Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun music Critic
Perry and Chiang, as they would throughout the evening, had continual brisk attacks as needed, and the most lyrical of string sounds in the slower movements.

Besides his "Unfinished Symphony," Schubert left a few other works incomplete. After intermission, the three string players performed the allegro movement (the only one completed) of the Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello, D471. As the composer would have wanted, the melody poured out with beauty and vigor. The effect was notably enhanced by the tone of Perry's violin.
New-Times Music Correspondent, Danbury, CT
…one of the finest, most fully realized performances of this work that I can remember. Their impeccable phrasing, crisp attacks, and near-Germanic warm passion for this music was always in evidence, as was their drive for perfection (with pianist Rita Sloan).
The Washington Times, Washington D.C.
Gideon Klein…this inventive piece well deserved the warm, lively, human interpretation it received at the skilled hands of the talented trio…The players gave their all, and one felt a release in the power of the music that enveloped all the lucky listeners.
James F. Cotter, the Times Herald-Record, Newburgh, NY