A singular trio
|By Lawrence Cosentino|
Lansing Symphony starts 2010-11 season with lead-off tripleOrchestras resort to all sorts of gimmicks nowadays, but the Lansing Symphony’s season opener tops all: a soloist with three heads.
Why not? It takes a freak to play one, and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is a musical anomaly. It’s a trio within a concerto, a whisper wrapped in a roar, chamber-style tea and toast inside an orchestral ox roast.
Beethoven’s bizarre beast is often abused as an excuse to park three big stars onto the same stage and raise a few million bucks for some cause or other. Maestro Tim Muffitt has taken a more sensitive tack.
Muffitt describes the Trio Terzetto, a piano-violin-cello unit featuring Okemos native and Cleveland Orchestra cellist Tanya Ell, as a “soloist” — singular.
“They come not as three individuals, but as one organism,” Muffitt said.
Never mind Beethoven. Let your imagination go. Picture Ell, pianist Renana Gutman and violinist Diana Cohen frolicking together on a beach, in gauzy slow motion. No kidding — they are that close.
“We’re really lucky we get along so well personally,” Ell said.
On tour in their four years together, the three musicians have hiked together in rugged Banff and the mountains of Asheville, N.C. Recently they played the Saugatuck Music Festival on Lake Michigan.
“It’s not just rehearsing and performing. We enjoy whatever places we’re in together and explore them,” Ell said. “We could take really long walks along the water and go swimming, and we like to cook together.”
Do they huddle over the campfire, giggling over a tricky cadence from Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’ Trio?
“We definitely talk shop, but not just that,” Ell said. “We know each other very, very well.”
Four years ago, Trio Terzetto’s first concert was meant as a one-off, but they hit it off big, musically and personally.
Ell described Gutman, an internationally acclaimed pianist based in London, as a “very thoughtful, deep musician.”
“I remember the first time I heard her play, she has what I would call a luminescent sound,” Ell said. “She’s always thinking how to pull more out, how to be more convincing.”
While playing, Ell often sings a melody inwardly, searching for the right sound. Gutman has a knack for reading the cellist’s mind and helping her bring the ideal to physical life.
Cohen, concertmaster of the Kalamazoo Symphony since September 2007, is just as rewarding to work with, Ell said.
“We see from each other’s perspectives,” she said. “That’s the best thing about chamber music.”
In 2007, Ell became the youngest cellist in the Cleveland Orchestra, often numbered among the five or six best orchestras in the world.
She often steps out and plays chamber music with her Cleveland colleagues, just for kicks. But Ell treasures the Trio Terzetto as a musical thread “completely outside of that,” she said.
“It’s given me the chance to be in a group where you get to know each other’s playing and music-making ideas over years,” she said.“You can’t get that experience when you just play a concert here and there.”
A hiker, runner and overall savorer of life, Ell has never been keen to huddle in a practice room all week.
She said it all goes into the furnace of creativity.
“I don’t think I could have possibly dreamed what this would be like,” she said. “I feel very lucky.”
Can you keep the cellist in Okemos after she’s seen Milano? You can if there’s a plum gig like Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.
Ell’s father, cellist Eva Ell and clarinetist Frank Ell, are longtime Lansing Symphony players, now retired.
“He’s brought wonderful new energy to the orchestra and has quite a following in the community,” she said.
Muffitt said he’ll handle Ell and the trio just as he would a soloist with one head.
“It used to be very popular in the concert hall, for good reason, and I’m gonna bring it back,” Muffitt said.
Lansing Symphony Orchestra
With Trio Terzetto 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10. Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center. $12-45. (517) 487-5001 www.lansingsymphony.org