The string trio Ensemble Epomeo recently finished up a tour through New England, Canada, Philadelphia, and Princeton, playing Bach, Beethoven, Hans Gál, Alfred Schnittke, Richard Strauss, and my Thrice Blest. I was able to catch them at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. How they got there in time for the show is a story in itself, which the cellist Kenneth Woods recounts here. We all repaired to the White Dog afterward: I, for just a cup of coffee, but they, for their first meal, I take it, in about 400 miles and 14 hours.

How they could play my little piece, let alone Schnittke—let alone Beethoven—is beyond me.

Alfred Schnittke

They were alternating the Gál and Schnittke on their concerts; I had heard the former at Christ Church in October, and am glad to have gotten a hearing of the latter at Penn. Both were my first exposures to these pieces (I think nobody’s playing the Gál, as it’s only recently been discovered, but everyone ought to; for why, see here and here).

I can’t say that I really liked the Schnittke String Trio at first hearing, but I haven’t worried about liking in a long time. We rate it much, much too highly. This is an irony, since liking mostly concerns things over which we have no control.

I was, however, entranced. Caroline’s lyricism took on urgency and magnetism. She was drawing the viola and cello and me all to her. David’s tone deepened and was beautiful and sad. Ken was inexhaustible, portraying lightness and a gorgeous strength simultaneously.

Entranced? Maybe I was altered. It’s too soon to tell, but I’ll take it over liking.

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