THE HOEBIG/MOROZ TRIO SHINES IN AN ALL-BEETHOVEN CONCERT
Hoebig/Moroz Trio, VSO/ Bramwell Tovey: An All-Beethoven Concert, Orpheum, June 3, 2017.
This fine concert was as much a celebration of one of Canada’s long-standing piano trios as it was of Beethoven, yielding an inspired performance of the composer’s Triple Concerto. The Hoebig/Moroz Trio was formed in 1979, fresh out of Juilliard, and it has always occupied a special place in the Canadian musical landscape. The integration and ardour that the ensemble achieved in Beethoven’s most infrequently performed concerto convinced me again that the work is best served by the participation of a real piano trio rather than an arbitrary assemblage of soloists. A strong Egmont Overture and ‘Eroica’ from Bramwell Tovey contributed to the bounty.
The leisurely pace for opening Allegro of the Triple Concerto suggested an engaging journey, and gave the trio ample room to find both detail and narrative. One noticed right away how good the balance was between the ensemble and the orchestra – and that has often been a problem with this work. Desmond Hoebig took the leading cello voice forward admirably with eloquence and feeling, initiating a particularly fine synergy with his sister Gwen on violin and pianist David Moroz. The ensemble’s interaction was tightly-knit, rhythmically astute and always full of communication. The three musicians were particularly fine in negotiating the balance of intensity and affability that this opening movement requires, allowing the boisterous orchestral statements to sum things up excitingly.
I was sufficiently impressed by articulation of the cellist and the wonderfully clean lines and attack of the violinist that I found it enrichening to recall that Desmond Hoebig was originally taught by David Soyer and Leonard Rose while Gwen had among her teachers Ivan Galamian and Sally Thomas (the latter was also the teacher of James Ehnes). Frankly, I thought Gwen was one of the best violinists I had seen for a time: a lovely mix of precision and passionate virtuosity, all meshed so fluently, everything so full of life. She has been Concertmaster of the Winnipeg Symphony since 1987. David Moroz’ pianism was distinguished by a razor-sharp alertness, and a good sense of detail.
The closing Rondo had all the rollicking good spirits it should have, a delightful conversation between the artists, mixing playfulness and energy to the right degree and always cultivating a natural flow. The only qualification might have been the interpretation the brief Largo, which seemed slightly too impassioned and quick to provide the full contrast to the finale. If one recalls how softly and slowly Janos Starker extended out the cello part in this movement years ago, there was likely room for more inward musing. Nonetheless, this was a fully admirable performance and, as it turned out, a most fitting memorial to the Hoebig’s mother Patricia, a long-standing music teacher who recently passed away in North Vancouver.
Bramwell Tovey has conducted all the Beethoven symphonies over the years (and the 9th many times), yet it would be safe to say that the composer has not been an overly-frequent visitor to Vancouver concert halls. The conductor’s Egmont Overture and ‘Eroica’ emerged as powerful statements, even if structural integration might have been greater. His ‘Eroica’ had sensible tempos throughout, and attempted to cultivate a strong lyricism in the opening Allegro. The decision to push out the famous opening string motives with a billowing romantic breadth gave the work a more balletic feel – recall the work’s link to the Creatures of Prometheus – but it also made it more difficult to get the movement to settle structurally. This led to some rather brusque sforzandi and choppiness to instate rhythmic discipline, though there was a fine energetic building to the movement’s close. Perhaps only Bruno Walter could make this type of approach work seamlessly.
The highlight was the middle portion of the funeral march, which took the oboe theme forward with the greatest concentration. Here there was a lovely inexorability in the tread before the elemental first climax – strikingly projected – though the same certitude of expression unfortunately wasn’t sustained throughout: both the beginning and end of the movement seemed to have some difficulty in just sitting with the quiet stillness in the music. The Scherzo was nicely negotiated, the horns exhibiting their requisite virtuosity in the Trio. I enjoyed the lyrical expansion of the famous balletic theme in the finale too. Perhaps not all of this approach was automatically convincing – sometimes the string phrasing seemed a little too glossy and not quite Beethoven – but everything came together with the right frisson and sense of resolution at the end. Not a fully-finished ‘Eroica’ then, but I think one that left its mark and added splendour to a most rewarding evening.
© Geoffrey Newman 2017