Eroica Trio moves Spaulding audience Saturday night

by Christine Huggins | 1/12/04 6:00am

Country has the Dixie Chicks, pop has Destiny's Child, and classical has Eroica Trio. They are three astonishingly beautiful women with talent to match their looks. Making their first appearance at the Hop Saturday night, they delivered an impressive performance to a packed Spaulding Auditorium. What drew so many people to listen to classical music on such an unbearably frigid night? Perhaps it was the gorgeous women on the posters that were plastered up all over campus, but more likely it was the remarkable talent of the group that prompted such a turnout.

Eroica Trio has an impressive track record. In 1997, the ensemble debuted at Carnegie Hall, and has since toured the United States, Europe and Asia.

Pianist Erika Nickrenz debuted at age 11 and has since performed at the Marlboro, Spoleto and Tanglewood Festivals. Violinist Adela Pena won first prize at the Washington International competition and has toured extensively as a soloist. Cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio was awarded the prestigious bronze medal in the International Tchaikovsky Cello Competition in Moscow and has since gone on to perform in the Grammy award-winning recording of Leonard Bernstein's "Arias and Barcaroles."

Since the Trio are friends as well as musical colleagues they complement each other exceptionally well on stage.

Indeed, this group is not your typical classical trio. This group is neither male nor stodgy. This was evident right away when they stepped out onto the stage in funky black and white dresses, looking like they could have stepped right out of "Sex and the City."

The highlight of the performance was definitely the Shostakovich's "Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67." Sant'Ambrogio gave the audience a history of both the composer and the piece, which were both essential to appreciate the song.

Shostakovich was the first major Russian composer to receive his entire musical education under the Soviet regime and harsh Stalin-influences were evident in the music. Written in 1944, "Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67" was a tribute to Shostakovich's close friend and musical colleague who died in a Nazi concentration camp.

Many musical influences made the composition the work of genius that it was. The instrumental imitation of train wheels churning gave the impression that the soviet machinery was taking off and could not be stopped. Crashing chords on the piano imitated the gulag call that pervaded the labor camps on the icy tundra.

An extended passage of false harmonics on the cello put the cello in a higher octave than the violin and created the impression of a hundred ghostly voices calling out at once. And interwoven Jewish musical themes reverberated the horror of the Holocaust.

In her introduction, Sant'Ambrogio insightfully praised Shostakovich for "his ability to draw pictures with his music." Throughout the entire piece, visions of tundra, downtrodden communist workers, horrific concentration camps, intellectual despotism, pain, misery, and death plagued the listener.

Eroica Trio gave a stunning performance all around, but their delivery of this piece was outstanding.

The fear, the grating harshness of the different instrumental parts and the horrific sound washed over the listener in waves until the final few measures of the piece, in which the suffering softens into a sad violin solo that ends the piece in major.

This decision of Shostakovich to end the piece in a major key suggests that not only is the piece a reflection of the horrors of Russia or of the Nazi regime, but instead a reflection of the horrors inherent in all of humanity.

In the end, Shostakovich hoped that humanity could overcome these horrors. Although this piece is painful to listen to, it is important to appreciate. The fact that Eroica Trio put this in their program shows that not only do they display a depth of musical maturity but that they also understand the power music has to affect people.