Aviara Trio in concert

Southern California piano trio makes first appearance in Bend

By David Jasper, The Bulletin

What: Aviara Trio

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Bend Church (formerly First United Methodist Church), 680 NW Bond St.

Cost: $40, $10 for children

Contact: info@highdesertchambermusic.com or 541-306-3988

Southern California piano group Aviara Trio will make its first appearance in Bend when it performs the second concert of High Desert Chamber Music’s 2016-17 season. But for violinist Robert Schumitzky and his cellist wife, Erin Breene, it’s practically a return engagement.

“This will be the fourth time” the two have made the trip, Schumitzky said. “Each of the four times, it’s been a totally different configuration.”

The couple’s first trip to perform at High Desert Chamber Music’s annual series was as a string trio with a violist. Schumitzky recalls that HDCM founder and executive director Isabelle Senger sat in on violin for a Beethoven quartet that was on the program.

“Then we came as a string quartet, four or five years ago, and then the last time we were there, a couple of years ago, we came in as a string quintet,” Schumitzky recalled. “We said after that performance, ‘We have our trio. We gotta see if there’s any chance we can bring our trio.’”

Needless to say, they did see, and they are. Joining them for their fourth trip will be Aviara Trio pianist Ines Irawati. The Indonesia-born musician made her concert debut when she was 12 and earned her Master of Music at Yale University. Breene earned a bachelor’s degree in music at Rice University followed by a master’s at Juilliard School, and has served as principal cellist of the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Music Center Dance of Los Angeles and Opera Pacific Orchestra.

Schumitzky took up violin way back in first grade, excelling early. At the age of 11, he was accepted with “Special Student” status by the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, and later earned a music degree at Juilliard. Schumitzky performs using a 1694 “Ex-Halir” Stradivarius, and in his free time, he wields a hockey stick.

The trio came into being close to a decade ago, after Breene met Schumitzky when she auditioned for the now defunct Opera Pacific Orchestra.

“She won the position of assistant principal cellist; I was the assistant concertmaster at the time. It was around 2007 where she mentioned she’d been playing concerts with a wonderful pianist (Irawati), and would we be interested in getting together and maybe seeing if we could play some piano trio concerts, which we did in 2007.”

After a year or so of playing together, Irawati started a family, putting the trio on hold. In 2010, she reached out to Schumitzky and Breene about getting the group back together, and they’ve been back at it the last six years.

Their Bend concert opens with Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio, the first of his two piano trios, from Opus 70, published in 1809.

“Obviously, it’s kind of a daunting task to not only pick a program that we love to play, but something that we know the audience would really enjoy,” Schumitzky said. “It’s just a great concert opener because it grabs the audience right away. It’s a lyrical work. It gets its nickname the ‘Ghost’ Trio due to the second movement. … It’s not only scary for an audience to listen to, it’s very stark and shocking contrast from very loud dynamics to soft dynamics.”

Up next is the concert’s second piece, Joaquin Turina’s Piano Trio No. 2. “He was born in Spain, but he studied in Paris, and while he was there, he got to know Ravel and Debussey and a lot of the French impressionist composers, which you hear a lot in this piece. It’s a short, 15-minute piece; it has a lot of Spanish dance elements. I think it’s a very cool piece to play,” Schumitzky said.

After intermission, the trio tackles Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, “one of our very favorite pieces to play,” he said. “Which we always say, in our minds, is probably one of the top-five trios ever written.”

Brahms actually wrote two versions, decades apart, Schumitzky said. The original version was completed in 1854, but “Brahms was never satisfied with this version. Thirty-five years later, in 1889, I believe, we hear what we’re going to perform,” he said. “To say it was revised is really an understatement. The whole piece has been overhauled.”

Both versions continue to be played today, though the latter version tends to be performed more often, Schumitzky said. The tune clocks in at 35 minutes and will bring the concert to its conclusion. He, Breene and Irawata are open to doing an encore if there’s time and a demand, Schumitzky said, “but we’ll have to see what they want.”

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