SInspired Recollections, part of the Ascent International Chamber Music Festival, was given on July 5th featured the music of three Eastern European composers: David Popper, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Antonin Dvořák.

This third event of the Ascent Chamber Music Festival is the brainchild of the husband/wife team, Alan Rafferty and Sarah Kim, both cellists, also performing in the concert, with cellist Melissa Kraut, pianists Ming Li Liu, Michael Chertock, and Vladimir Stoupel, violinists Grigory Kalinovsky, Judith Ingolfsson, and Tom Stone, and violist Rebecca Barnes.

The evening opened with an engaging piece by Czech-born David Popper, part of a musical dynasty of star 19th century cellists.  Popper’s Requiem for Three Cellos, composed in 1892, was dedicated to the memory of his friend and publisher, Daniel Rahter, encompassing an introspective and somber reflection on the passing of the composer’s friend.  The Requiem for Three Cellos was also played at Popper’s funeral in 1913.

David Popper

Cellists Sarah Kim, Melissa Kraut, and Alan Rafferty, and pianist Ming Li Lui, played with great emotion, each with significant solo passages, honoring the intent of the composer’s tribute.

After a brief pause, the performance continued with Dimitri Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Trio, another composition that reflects intense matters of life and death.   At the end of 1943, long after the Soviet Army had defeated the Germans at Stalingrad, Shostakovich began work on his 2nd Piano Trio, but the devastating losses of millions of soldiers and civilians suffered by his country, prevented him from penning any kind of celebratory music. The untimely death of Ivan Sollertinsky, Shostakovich’s dearest friend, also affected the composer, who after months of emotional depression and creative depletion, finished writing the work. 

Dimitri Shostakovich

Recognizing all that death portends, the trio begins with an eerie cello passage, played in harmonics, continuing with an agitated allegro that ultimately morphs into a frenzied waltz. The second movement is a somber passacaglia, followed by a menacing scherzo. The last movement ends with an allegretto that reminds one of the composer’s revulsion at reports that guards in one of the Nazi death camps forced Jewish prisoners to dance by their own graves prior to annihilating them.   

In 1946, Shostakovich was finally able to listen and perform the 2nd Piano Trio himself and was awarded the State Stalin Prize.  In l975, as he lay in state, the work’s second movement was played as the composer’s body was viewed by thousands of devoted fans.  The playing of Grigory Kalinovsky, Alan Rafferty, and Vladimir Stoupel achieved a degree of intensity not often heard in chamber music concerts, eliciting a prolonged ovation from the awestruck audience.

Following the intermission, Antonin Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81 provided a welcome change of mood. Composed in 1887, this was not Dvorák’s first attempt at writing in this form, for a decade earlier, a similar quintet had been started and subsequently abandoned by the composer.  Now, at the peak of his fame, Dvořák was inspired to try again. This time he succeeded, incorporating into his composition a now melancholy, now rhythmic Dumka, and a lively Furiant – both Bohemian folk dances from his Czech homeland, giving his music its unique flavor.

Antonin Dvořák

Dvořák’s music, played brilliantly by violinists Judith Ingolfsson & Tom Stone, violist, Rebecca Barnes, cellist Alan Rafferty, and pianist Michael Chertock, sent the grateful audience out into the evening in a happy mood – grateful for the music, happy to have such peerless musicians in our community playing in the Ascent International Chamber Music Festival.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

Next, on July 9th at 7:30 pm, pianist Cho-Liang Lin returns to Cincinnati to play the Concerto for Four Violins in D Major of Georg Philipp Telemann, Three Pieces of Dmitri Shostakovich, the Suite for Two Violins and Piano of Moritz Moszkowski, and Johannes Brahms’ Sextet No. 1 in B-Flat Major, Op. 18, all part of the fourth concert of the Ascent International Chamber Music Festival.  Tickets are available on their website:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: