Horszowski Trio

Sun, April 19, 2015, 4:00pm


When the members of the Horszowski Trio – Jesse Mills, Raman Ramakrishnan, and Rieko Aizawa – played together for the first time, they immediately felt the spark of a unique connection. Many years of close friendship had created a deep trust between the players, which in turn led to exhilarating expressive freedom.

Two-time Grammy-nominated violinist Jesse Mills first performed with Raman Ramakrishnan, founding cellist of the prize-winning Daedalus Quartet, at the Kinhaven Music School over twenty years ago, when they were children. In New York City, they met pianist Rieko Aizawa, who, upon being discovered by the late violinist and conductor Alexander Schneider, had made her U.S. debuts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Their musical bonds were strengthened at various schools and festivals around the world, including the Juilliard School and the Marlboro Festival.

Ms. Aizawa was the last pupil of the legendary pianist, Mieczysław Horszowski (1892-1993), at the Curtis Institute. The Trio takes inspiration from Horszowski’s musicianship, integrity, and humanity. Like Horszowski, the Trio presents repertoire spanning the traditional and the contemporary. In addition, they seek to perform works from the trove of composers with whom Horszowski had personal contact, such as Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Martinu, Villa-Lobos, and Granados. Based in New York City, the members of the Horszowski Trio teach at Columbia University and the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

Grammy award-winning composer Joan Tower, one of the most important living American composers of today, will make a special appearance to discuss her piece, “For Daniel.” Tower’s career spans more than 50 years and her works have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, Chicago Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and others.

Faure Trio in D minor, Op. 120
– Live introduction by composer Joan Tower –
Tower “For Daniel”
– Intermission –
Schubert Trio No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 100

“Destined for great things.” – The New Yorker 

Horszowski Trio plays Schubert Trio No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 100, D. 929

Horszowski Trio plays Brahms Trio No. 3 in C Minor Op. 101 (Allegro Energico)


Horszowski Trio plays Dvorak’s Trio in F Minor Op.65 (Poco Adagio)


Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Jesse Mills, violin

Two-time Grammy nominated violinist Jesse Mills enjoys performing music of many genres, from classical to contemporary, as well as composed and improvised music of his own invention. In 2004, Mills made his concerto debut with the Chicago’s Ravinia Festival Orchestra. He has performed throughout the U.S. and Canada, including concerts at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, the Metropolitan Museum, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Boston’s Gardener Museum, and the Marlboro Music Festival. He has also appeared at prestigious venues in Europe, such as the Barbican Centre of London, La Cité de la Musique in Paris, Amsterdam’s Royal Carré Theatre, Teatro Arcimboldi in Milan, and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.

Mills is highly regarded as a champion of contemporary music, a renowned improvisational artist, as well as a composer. He earned a Grammy nomination for his work on a CD of Arnold Schoenberg’s music, released by NAXOS in 2005. He can also be heard on the Koch, Centaur, Tzadik, Max Jazz, and Verve labels for various compositions of Webern, Schoenberg, Zorn, Wuorinen, and others. As a member of the FLUX Quartet from 2001-2003, Mills performed music composed during the last 50 years (including the famous six-hour-long String Quartet No. 2 by Morton Feldman), in addition to frequent world premieres. Mills is co-founder of Duo Prism, a violin-piano duo with Rieko Aizawa, which earned 1st Prize at the Zinetti International Competition in Italy in 2006. With Ms. Aizawa, Mills became co-artistic director of the Alpenglow Chamber Music Festival in Colorado in 2010. As a composer and arranger, Mills has been commissioned by venues including Columbia University’s Miller Theater and Chamber Music Northwest.  Mills is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he was a student of Dorothy DeLay, Robert Mann, and Itzhak Perlman.


Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Raman Ramakrishnan, cello

As member of the Daedalus Quartet, with which he played from its founding in 2000 through 2012, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan won the grand prize at the 2001 Banff International String Quartet Competition. With the quartet, he performed coast-to-coast in the United States and Canada, in Japan, Hong Kong, and Panama, and across Europe, and served in residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University, where Mr. Ramakrishnan continued to maintain a teaching studio. Mr. Ramakrishnan has given solo recitals in New York, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., and has performed chamber music on Caramoor’s “Rising Stars” series, at Bargemusic, with the Boston Chamber Music Society, and at the Aspen, Charlottesville, Four Seasons, Lincolnshire (UK), Marlboro, Mehli Mehta (India), Oklahoma Mozart, and Vail Music Festivals. He has toured with Musicians from Marlboro, is a member of the East Coast Chamber Orchestra, and has performed, as guest principal cellist, with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. As a guest member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, he has collaborated with musicians from the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra and performed in New Delhi and Agra, India and in Cairo, Egypt.

Mr. Ramakrishnan was born in Athens, Ohio and grew up in East Patchogue, New York. His father is a molecular biologist and his mother is the children’s book author and illustrator Vera Rosenberry.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University and a Master’s degree in music from The Juilliard School.  His principal teachers have been Fred Sherry, Andrés Díaz, and André Emelianoff.  He lives in New York City with his wife, the violist Melissa Reardon. He plays a Neapolitan cello made by Vincenzo Jorio in 1837.


Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Rieko Aizawa, piano

Praised by The New York Times for her “impressive musicality, a crisp touch and expressive phrasing,” Japanese pianist Rieko Aizawa has performed in solo and orchestral engagements throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and Vienna’s Konzerthaus. At the age of thirteen, Ms. Aizawa was brought to the attention of conductor Alexander Schneider on the recommendation of the pianist Mitsuko Uchida. Schneider engaged Ms. Aizawa as soloist with his Brandenburg Ensemble at the opening concerts of Tokyo’s Casals Hall. Later that year, Schneider presented her in her United States debut concerts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall with his New York String Orchestra. She has since established her own unique musical voice.

Ms. Aizawa is also an active chamber musician. The youngest-ever participant at the Marlboro Music Festival, she has also performed as a guest with string quartets including the Guarneri Quartet and the Orion Quartet. Ms. Aizawa is a founding member of Duo Prism with violinist Jesse Mills, which earned the 1st Prize at the Zinetti International Competition in Italy in 2006. With Mr. Mills, Ms. Aizawa became co-artistic director of the Alpenglow Chamber Music Festival in Colorado in 2010. March 2005 marked the release of Ms. Aizawa’s first solo recording of Shostakovich’s and Scriabin’s “24 Preludes,” on the Altus Music label. Her second album, of Messiaen’s and Faure’s preludes, will come out in 2012.  Rieko Aizawa was the last pupil of Mieczyslaw Horszowski at the Curtis Institute and she also studied with Seymour Lipkin and Peter Serkin at the Juilliard School.

Gabriel Fauré/1845-1924/Trio in d, Op. 120

Gabriel Fauré, born in the south of France, studied in Paris not at the hidebound Conservatoire, but rather at the École Niedermeyer, where he received an unusually broad musical education in three respects that set him apart from the products of the “official” school: a thorough understanding of older music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, familiarity with the German tradition, including Bach and Beethoven, and a more-than-nodding acquaintance with such dangerous moderns as Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner—this last element through the good offices of the young Saint-Saëns, who from 1861 on was professor of piano at the school. Fauré himself went on to become one of the most distinguished teachers of the turn of the century era (his students included Ravel and Enesco as well as Nadia Boulanger, who became a singularly influential teacher in her own right).

French music in the late nineteenth century was divided into highly politicized camps—the Wagnerians, the Franckists, the followers of Massenet, and others. Fauré kept largely to himself, not joining any clique; even after making the customary pilgrimage to Bayreuth to hear the Ring, he revealed almost no influence of the experience in his own work. Fauré’s greatest strengths lay in the realms of song and chamber music; many of his works in both categories are treasured by performers and familiar to listeners. His last two major works, composed in the last year of his long life, are somewhat less frequently encountered—his only Piano Trio, Opus 120, and his only string quartet, Opus 121. It was Fauré’s publisher Durand who suggested that he add a piano trio to this chamber music output. The work took shape over about ten months from August 1922 to the spring of 1923.

The first movement grows gradually, but inexorably, from a quietly songful opening to a fiery close, building the dynamic shape of the movement from two contrasting ideas that intertwine and develop mutually throughout—the singing theme heard in the cello at the outset and a phrase that oscillates in a gradual climb on the piano soon after. Fauré’s themes grow naturally and then in development intertwine in imitative counterpoints.

The slow movement is spacious and beautifully sustained, unfolding as a contrapuntal duet between the stringed instruments, with the piano joining in sometimes, but mostly supplying a harmonic center in slow chords. The violin presents a pensive opening theme which is contrasted with a slightly more passionate theme in the piano, and the two later combine easily in the development. A third theme—slowly rising—in the piano undergoes imaginative extensions.

After the lyrical poignancy of the middle movement, the finale breaks out in brusque violence with a theme that sounds as if Fauré has been listening to Leoncavallo’s opera I Pagliacci, because it projects the most famous line in that opera, “Ridi, Pagliacco!” This is truly ironic, because the formal and self-controlled Fauré was quoted in the press (a dozen years earlier) in the view that Leoncavallo’s popular opera should “provoke the indignation of all who care about music.” But Fauré is surely not thinking about Italian opera here, and the echo is purely happenstance. He does use it, and the other themes that flow from it, to build a lively, outgoing, assertive close of great energy.

The trio was performed by two different ensembles in May and June 1923. The second performance was by the famous Cortot-Thibaud-Casals Trio, a superb performance that put the seal of approval on the work.

© Steven Ledbetter


Joan Tower
b. September 6, 1938 (New Rochelle, New York)

For Daniel (2004)

Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than fifty years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). She is in residence as the Albany Symphony’s Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season.

For Daniel was written for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio with a commission sponsored by John and Helen Schaefer of the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. It is dedicated to Joan Tower’s nephew, Daniel MacArthur, who passed away in 2003 after a long illness.

The composer writes:

The 17-minute work tries to convey the imagined struggles associated with someone who is facing a long-term terminal illness. The hopes, joys, depression, anger, deep turmoil and occasional serenity are in constant juxtaposition in this work, as they were throughout the last years of Daniel’s life. As the end approaches, so does the intensity. In my work, the intensity is loud and fast. Maybe Daniel’s approach was more accepting. May he now rest in peace.

The Horszowski Trio will be recording For Daniel in March 2014 as part of a large recording project being curated by the composer of many of her chamber music works in celebration of her 75th birthday.

-Program note courtesy of artist’s management


Franz Schubert/1797-1828/ Trio No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 100

Of Schubert’s two great piano trios, the first, in B‑flat, has always been a mystery; we can be reasonably sure only that he composed it before the second, in E‑flat. But the manuscript (which might be dated or provide other evidence from the paper or handwriting) is lost, and there is no record of a performance in Schubert’s lifetime nor of publication before 1836, eight years after his death.

The E‑flat trio is a different matter. Schubert began the composition in November 1827, and the piece soon had a public performance with some noted musicians: Schuppanzigh, the first violinist of the quartet that had premiered most of Beethoven’s string quartets; the cellist of the same quartet; and the pianist Karl Maria von Bocklet, to whom Schubert had dedicated his D-Major piano sonata, D.850. (Even if we didn’t know the names of the performers, the difficulty of the various parts—especially the brilliance of the piano and the exploiting of the cello’s high range—would indicate that this was no work for mere drawing-room musicians.)

Schubert was hoping at this time to extend his reputation beyond Vienna to other countries, and he had approached two prominent German publishers, Breitkopf & Härtel and H.A. Probst, both of Leipzig. Probst seemed more willing to provide the composer with a fee for his works, and Schubert urged that he accept the E‑flat trio along with some other pieces. Probst was doubtful about the trio because of its length and difficulty (which meant that few people would be likely to buy it), but the composer was almost painfully determined to see it in print. Probst finally did bring out the trio, but if Schubert had the satisfaction of seeing it at all, it was only on his deathbed. It remained his one and only success in finding a non‑Austrian publisher during his lifetime.

The opening Allegro begins with a stern unison motto figure that soon leads to a little neighbor‑note pendant first heard in the cello, an idea whose significance grows throughout the exposition. The rich, mature Schubertian harmonic language takes us through B minor (where the piano presents a diffident little tune high up in octaves over pulsing strings) before settling onto the expected B‑flat, where the neighbor‑note figure from earlier in the movement takes new flight and grows ever more forceful. Soon this turns into yet another guise, a meltingly lyrical melody first heard in the violin, soon echoed in the piano. It is this last version of the idea that captures the composer’s attention—to the exclusion of everything else—throughout the lengthy development. The rather sprawling character of this movement, and of the finale, too, may be due in part to Schubert’s desire to make a splash of virtuosity in the public concerto at which the trio was scheduled to be played.

The second movement is reputedly based on a Swedish folksong, though the source has never been identified. Schubert had the then-daring idea of bringing the tune back, against all expectation, in a particularly magical way during the last movement—there, as here, stated by the cello.

The scherzo is a graceful and lively passage with a good deal of two‑part canon, a reminder of the composer’s determination to improve his counterpoint during his last months; it is followed by a peculiar, thumping clog‑dance of a Trio.

The finale extends to an extraordinary length, especially considering its unprepossessing start in a cheery little 6/8 tune, but there are surprises in store, including sudden changes to 2/2 time, especially for a C-minor section of the exposition which moves back to 6/8 for the normal dominant material, and later a recollection of the second‑movement theme in the cello, in long sustained notes, against a syncopated figure in the piano. Though the trio may be overextended in some respects, the richness of detail reveals the hand of the adventurous harmonist and the expressive melodist at every step.

© Steven Ledbetter