POSTCARDS IN E MINOR
Antonin Dvorak, Dmitri Shostakovich
THE MERLING TRIO
Renata Artman Knific Violin
Bruce Uchimura Cello
Susan Wiersma Uchimura Piano
"The Merling Trio deliver a precise and yet fluent rendition of [the Dumky Trio]. A perfect example of this occurs during the first ‘Dumky’ when a lively polka emerges from the mournful opening. The trio carry us effortlessly through these rapidly changing emotions whilst elegantly capturing the romance behind each movement... The Merling Trio produce a compelling and moving recording [of the Shostakovich]... often in other performances the more joyful memories have remained somewhat hidden within the cloying tragedy behind its inspiration. This is not so apparent on this recording and the result is a thought provoking rendition that builds towards a finale that shifts between the macabre and onwards towards feelings of hope and potential liberation... [an] excellent release and one that is highly recommended ."
Jeff Perkins, BlogCritics - July 2009
"Postcards in e is the title of an attractive offering by the Merling Trio of famous works by Dvor(ák and Shostakovich. In this program the Merling show the primary quality that distinguishes their art, which the American Record Guide aptly described as 'a properly stylistic balance between abandon and control.' On my first audition of Dvor(ák's “Dumky” Trio in e Minor, Op. 90, I was struck more by the control factor, a passion for precision which enables these artists to bring out many choice points in this well-loved work. The beautiful tone the Merlings cultivate throughout the Trio makes it an easy winner.
...there is an awful lot of playful, witty music in [Shostakovich's Piano Trio] and the Merlings show a quick aptitude for it... I had not noticed this playful element in other recordings. Curiously, it makes this performance even more compelling than it might have been otherwise."
Atlanta Audio Society, January 2009
“The players shaped a grand interpretation, fluent in rhythm and rich in romantic feeling.”
The Plain Dealer [Cleveland]
“The trio…delivered a standard of playing that is on par with some of the best known violin-cello-piano teams, captivating the audience through the immediacy and extraordinary sensitivity of its playing.”
Grand Rapids Press
“[The Merling Trio] made a powerful impression, with unabashed romanticism and finesse.”
Musical Opinion [London]
“Dumky” is not a nickname, but the plural form of a “dumka”, a musical genre derived from Slavic folk tradition. In the nineteenth century, the dumka came to be known as a sung lament, and later, an instrumental piece of thoughtful, usually melancholy, character. Dvo?rák’s trio, composed in 1891, is a series of six dumky whose prevailing plaintiveness is occasionally interrupted by livelier music, but never totally dispelled. Though the set is not really unified by key or theme, the first three dumka are somewhat interrelated and played without a break. The first and second each have a slow section followed by a faster one; the third is in three sections carrying a basic theme through a number of variations and mood changes. The fourth dumka has a primary cello theme which appears four times, interrupted twice by a related scherzando theme in the piano, and the third time by a lively dance motif. The fifth is least like a dumka in that its quickness and agitated rhythm continue almost unabated. The sixth opens with a beautiful section marked “Lento maestoso,” and later, a violin melody on the G string is particularly noteworthy.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Trio in E minor, Op.67
Shostakovich composed this trio in 1944 as a memorial to his close friend, the renowned music critic and writer Ivan Sollertinsky, who died in a Nazi concentration camp earlier that year. Pervaded by a sorrowful expressiveness, the work may be described as a lament, not just for Sollertinsky, but for the entire Soviet nation, mired in the darkest days of the Second World War. The first movement opens with a quiet introduction. The mournful main theme is sounded first in the high harmonics of the cello. A powerful forward drive marks this movement, whose content is based primarily upon material derived from the main theme. The second movement is a brisk and rhythmic scherzo, reminiscent of a peasant dance and punctuated with occasional harsh dissonances. The third movement is a chaconne or passacaglia, being based on a theme that continues throughout. The piano repeats a chorale-like theme of eight chords that serves as background for a lament between the violin and cello. The music then shifts to the lively finale, where angular themes and pizzicato playing add to a macabre “dance of death” effect. After a climax of these ideas, the introductory theme of the first movement appears, followed by a return of the finale theme, and finally the passacaglia from the third movement.
The Merling Trio is recognized as one of today’s premier ensembles. A truly international trio, it brings together musicians from Polish, Japanese, and Dutch backgrounds. The Merling Trio has been hailed as a brilliantly distinguished group endowed with remarkable gifts of communication, magnificent precision, and an impeccable blend of sound. The trio made its New York debut in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1993, and was named a finalist for the Naumburg Foundation Chamber Music Award in 1994.
The Merling Trio has given numerous recitals throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Members of the Trio have performed with orchestras such as the English Chamber Orchestra, the Honolulu Symphony, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, and the South Carolina Philharmonic, under the baton of such notable conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, and Christoph Eschenbach. Recent trio performances include concerts for the Lagerstrom Concerts Series at Caltech, the Texas Friends of Chamber Music Series, the Jewel Box Series in Chicago, the Charleston Chamber Music Society, Merkin Hall, and the Antioch College Professional Piano Series.
Several contemporary composers have written works for the Merling Trio, and in 1993, they commissioned and premiered C. Curtis-Smith’s Second Piano Trio. In February 1998, the trio returned to Carnegie Hall for a sold-out performance of a new work by Terry Winter- Owens, commissioned by the Merling Trio with a Commissioning Grant from the American Composers Forum. In 2003, the trio premiered Frank Proto’s Quartet for Piano and Strings with bassist Tom Knific at St. John’s Smith Square in London, England. Performances by the Merling Trio have been broadcast widely on television and radio, including WNYC, WFMT 98.7 in Chicago, Interlochen Public Radio, and Peachstate Radio.
In residence at the School of Music at Western Michigan University, members of the trio are also faculty members at the Schlern International Music Festival and the ENCORE School for Strings. Renowned educators, their students hold positions in major orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the world. Festival appearances include the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Pensacola Summer Music Festival, the Skaneateles Festival, the Saugatuck Chamber Music Festival, and the Fontana Festival of Art and Music. Recent educational outreach activities include performances and master classes for the California Music Teachers Association, the Music Teachers National Association, the Hawaii International Arts and Humanities Conference, and the American String Teachers Association National Conference.
The Merling Trio has released a number of critically-acclaimed recordings. Their first CD, a collaboration with conductor Dennis Russell Davies, featured works of C. Curtis-Smith and was released by Albany Records in 1995. About the CD, Fanfare wrote, “The composer could not ask for better interpreters.” Piano Trio Classics included works by Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, and Liszt and was released by Pamplin Records in 2001. About Centaur Records’ 2006 release of the trio’s recording of works by Piazzolla and Proto, the American Record Guide said, “The Merlings play with a properly stylistic balance between abandon and control. This is an unusual and beautifully played program.”
Piano Trio in E minor, Op.90 "Dumky"
Piano Trio in E minor, Op.67