The beginning of an epic tale

Monday, April 14, 2014

This year in preparation for their upcoming Artist Residency, Trio Cleonice embarked on an ambitious project: read and study pillars of Russian literature while at the same time delving into two of the great piano trios with unbridled passion and commitment. Cellist Gwen Krosnick recalls some of their early thoughts:

The opening of the Tchaikovsky trio, to Ari, Emely, and me, has always felt like the beginning of an epic tale, a huge and magical journey. One has the sense that, though the music is incredibly rich and evocative, right away, Tchaikovsky is only sharing so much. But we know that there is a huge emotional journey ahead: that is the affect, the atmosphere, the sense in the air as the piece begins! And, wildly, the parallel is perhaps the opening to War and Peace: even as Tolstoy starts it, almost unassumingly, with a conversation – a high society salon in Petersburg, with upper-class niceties and lots of French-inspired turns of phrase – we have the sense that this is the beginning of something much bigger than we can imagine or anticipate, something emotional and full of heat.

It is from this that our Russian music and literature residency began. While the world has enjoyed comparing Tchaikovsky trio to its more compact and upright Germanic cousins (Mozart trios and all else), it has been irresistible for us – and, more importantly, relevant, potent, thrilling for us – to instead put it in the immediate literary, artistic, emotional context that surrounded Tchaikovsky.

These great, great works of art - by Tchaikovsky and by Tolstoy - have sustained us through the past cold months and have kept our hearts exultant and inspired as we stepped through Boston's endless ice and sipped pots upon pots of tea. For, as Richard Pevear says, in his beautiful introduction to his translation of War and Peace (with his wife, Larissa Volokhonsky), “War and Peace is the most famous and at the same time the most daunting of Russian novels, as vast as Russia itself and as long to cross from one end to the other. Yet if one makes the journey, the sights seen and the people met on the way mark one’s life forever.” And yes, that is just it: these sights, these tunes, the people and motives and magic and wonder of these beautiful Russian stories – all of this is irreplaceable and, though we can only see the beginning of it right now, we know it will all be life-changing.

—Gwen Krosnick