Bruce Hodges shares his views on what he saw at Renée Weiler Concert Hall, Greenwich House, New York, on 6 December 2019


On their nights off, there are some members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, such as cellist Sam Magill, who explore chamber music. As the climax of this engaging evening at Greenwich House, Schumann’s Piano Trio in D minor op.63 roared to life with Magill and his Vista Lirica colleagues Eric Grossman on the violin and Beth Levin on the piano. Most striking was the first-movement sequence for violin and cello, featuring what must be one of the earliest uses of sul ponticello – creating an eerie, music-box effect. The galloping rhythms in the second movement emerged with vigour and passion, and the finale brought the evening to a triumphant close.

Grossman appeared earlier in Schubert’s Rondo brillant in B minor, and a few blurred scales didn’t dampen the work’s infectious spirit, which came through handsomely. As his sensitive collaborator, pianist William Hobbs buoyed the frenzy without dominating the results. Magill was also expert in the mellifluous cello line that opens the second movement of Beethoven’s Trio in B flat major op.11, with Levin and clarinettist Neil Rynston as eager partners. All three combined in appealingly throaty textures, and the finale showed the group at their most alert and energetic.