This past weekend the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society took on three trios by three B's: Boccherini, Beethhoven and Brahms. Freelance contributor Sara Krahn was at the concert Sunday night (May 4) at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Read her review!

Classical music has a way of invoking seasonal sentiments. The often grand and mysterious nature of instrumental music draws parallels to our own experiences with the natural world. There are the obvious works like the Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring and the second movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons offering us the thrill of a terrible summer storm.

Then there are less obvious works that leave more to the imagination. The Winnipeg Chamber Music Society’s program on Sunday evening offered one such experience of lesser known but no less provocative classical works. The event was advertised as ‘The 3 B’s’ exclusively featuring C minor trios by Boccherini, Beethoven, and Brahms. It was a magical night that found its metaphor in the current post Winter-in-Winnipeg milieu. The seriousness of the C minor works evoked the anxiety of a long winter, with an element of giddy release in both the music and the performance – the promise of spring! The composers featured were all brilliant innovators of their time, radically expanding the conventions of trio-writing, and in the featured repertoire, working with varying treatments of the sober C minor key.

The evening’s enjoyment lay in these contrasting themes of playfulness and seriousness. Artistic Director David Moroz introduced the evening’s set as the “slightly altered 3 B’s” – where Bach was replaced with the lesser known Boccherini. He also drew our attention to the playful theme running throughout the concert, 3 trio works for 3 performers all in C minor with 3 flats: “this concert is brought to you by the number 3.” These teasing elements, however, did not betray the musical depth of the evening’s music.

Boccherini’s early classical Trio in C minor, op. 14 no. 2, exhibits a wonderfully inventive clarity of texture and colour, with elements of Spanish guitar amidst the distinct Italian style. This work also demonstrates Bocchorini’s deep comprehension for the range of stringed instruments, featuring each of the instruments (cello, viola and violin) in the first three movements. The Adagio, featuring the deep alto of Daniel Scholz’s viola, especially moved the audience.

The program’s varying expressions of the moody C minor, particularly the contrast between Boccherini’s trio and Beethoven’s Trio in C minor, op. 9, no. 3, offered a new setting for “re-hearing” these works. While Bocchorini’s major and minor passages are clearly defined, Beethoven’s work is overwhelms the listener with the tension caused by the constant oscillation between the C minor and C major. This earlier and lesser known work of Beethoven’s foreshadows his remarkable later quartets – notably the opening to his Op. 130 String Quartet in Bb major (my favorite opening!)

Beethoven’s work spoke particularly in tribute to the end of our winter season. The tension in the grand moody chords of the Adagio echoes with the melancholy of this year’s relentless cold. The finale however, surprises us with an unconventional finish on a C major arpeggio.

The set list offered a wonderful emphasis on beginnings, which was notably consolidated in the final electrifying performance of Brahms Trio in C minor, op. 101.

The WCMS treated its audience to an intimate experience in the Muriel Richardson Auditorium at the WAG. During the break, I overheard people discussing some of curious physical habits of the musicians in a humorous and generous spirit. Although performances are meant to appear effortless, it is also refreshing to see just how hard musicians are working while they are on stage. (It is noteworthy here to mention that chamber musicians hold themselves to a standard with Brahms – if you can master Brahms you can master anything.) For me, it is was a humanizing and humbling experience to see musicians of the highest calibre working hard to perform with profound precision a concert of such exalted works.

A fitting comparison, perhaps, for our experience here in Canada’s winter capital: we’ve worked hard to prevail against the cold, pulled through another long, chilly season, and now here comes the symphony that is the sun.

Sara Krahn is a freelance contributor for Classic 107. She is also a music student at CMU.


Sunday night's program:

Boccherini: Trio in C minor, op 9 no.3 for violin, viola and cello

Beethoven: Trio in C minor, op. 9 no. 3 for violin, viola and cello

Brahms: Trio in C minor, op. 101 for piano, violin and cello



Gwen Hoebig - violin

Karl Stobbe - violin

Daniel Scholz - viola

Yuri Hooker - cello

David Moroz - piano