Innisfree Piano Trio Graces Studley

The Innisfree Piano Trio, composed of New Paltz faculty members, performed at Studley Theatre Tuesday night. The Trio consists of pianist Sylvia Buccelli, cellist Susan Seligman and violinist Carole Cowan. 

They were also joined by fellow faculty member and violist Christiana Fortune-Reader.

Named after the Innisfree Gardens at Millbrook and William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” the Trio has been performing in the Hudson Valley area for over 15 years. Because they worked together at New Paltz, a bond had formed between them, and out of this bond came the group. 

The Trio and Fortune-Reader performed three pieces. The first piece was “String Trio in C minor, Op. 9, No. 3” by Ludwig Van Beethoven, the second piece was “knickknacks for violin & viola” by George Tsontakis  and the third piece was “Quartet for Piano & String in C minor, Opus 60” by Johannes Brahms. Cowan, Seligman and Fortune-Reader played the first piece together, Cowan and Fortune-Reader played the next piece as a duet, and finally, all four of them played as a quartet for the finale.

Each piece was chosen out of a genuine love for them. “I wanted to do the Beethoven trio for quite awhile,” Cowan said. She noted that this piece was before Beethoven became a master in his own right, pointing out it’s “masterful moments” while still having a few imperfections. Susan insisted on doing Brahms’ piece for the performance, commenting on it’s “really great solo parts” for each performer.

The Tsontakis piece is the odd one out, as it was composed by a still-living composer. Tsontakis was there to see his piece performed. He gave a brief speech before it was performed, describing its origins. They were works commissioned by violinist Karen Dreyfus for her husband Glenn Dictrow, who was the then concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic orchestra. Two of the seven movements were played by the Trio. 

All four performers worked incredibly well with one another. They had a great synergy together and had the energy to turn each piece into an exciting work of art. The Trio’s tight-knit bond they had formed over many years of playing and working together truly spoke for itself. Fortune-Reader fit perfectly within the group; it was as if she had been playing with them her whole life. 

Cowan and Fortune-Reader played outstanding leads for violin and viola. The highlight for the two of them was during Tsontakis’ piece, where Fortune-Reader was lead for the first movement while Cowan was lead for the second. 

When one wasn’t leading, the other was laying out a repetitive, rhythmic pulse in the background. The second movement in particular stood out as being the most intense, with Cowan taking an incredibly forceful lead while Fortune-Reader’s backing viola was atonal and dissonant. To break these moments up were brief, serene interludes that reminds one of the compositions of Philip Glass.

Seligman was also incredible on the cello, playing both melodically and rythmically. There were great moments of her playing low, mournful notes before suddenly changing pace and harmonizing with the rest of the group.  She also stood out on the Brahms piece, having notable solo moments and a duet with Buccelli and her piano. They served as openers for one of the movements.

  Speaking of Buccelli, she was a master on the piano. Much like Seligman, she was able to go between a source of rhythm and source of melody at the drop of the hat. The Brahms piece is where she shined the brightest, particularly in the first movement where she played a brief piano solo before queing in the rest of the members with a forceful strike of her keys. 

The rest of the group jumped in eagerly and they played an incredibly intense passage together, filling the room with electricity. My only gripe with the performance was that Buccelli wasn’t featured enough; I would have loved to hear her play the piano more. 

 It is unknown when the three will perform as the Innisfree Piano Trio again. According to Seligman, a few of them will perform with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Orchestra on Nov. 17. However, this will definitely not be the last time they perform together. Cowan said that they try to hold at least one concert a year at SUNY New Paltz.

“I’m not sure when the next program is, we just haven’t had the conversation yet,” Buccelli said. 

Not only that, but the group is more than eager to work with one another, All members of the Trio have expressed their enjoyment of working in the group.

“We get engaged in the music, and we’re ready to work together,” Seligman said.