February 9, 2011

Knox-Galesburg Symphony Trio “comes alive” in Kresge

Classical music is better when it comes in threes: three players, three pieces, three movements. In musical trios, the harmonies between each part being three instead of two or four makes the composition of one a challenging feat and the experience of listening to one truly unique. On Saturday, people from all around Galesburg filled up Kresge Recital Hall to have such an experience with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Trio (KGS), and they were not disappointed.
Although the event took place at Knox, the concert united both Knox students and Galesburg residents. Tiana Freniste, a Galesburg resident, has been coming to the concert for seven years. She participates in other musical activities around Galesburg as well. She is an alto in the Galesburg Community Chorus, and her son takes piano lessons. She comes to the Knox-Galesburg Symphony performances because of her love of live music.
“I listen to classical radio…but I’m really interested in live music, because it really comes alive,” she said minutes before the concert began.
Freniste also appreciated the size of Kresge as a venue for the KGS Trio, and actually preferred it to places in town like the Orpheum Theatre, where the KGS orchestra often holds its concerts.
“I like it to be in here… I feel more comfortable,” she said.
The lights over the audience dimmed and out walked the trio, instruments in hand. The trio consists of a cellist, violinist and a pianist. The crowd applauded vigorously as they took their positions, manifesting the strong support of the Galesburg/Knox community.
When the applause faded, cellist and Knox Music Instructor Carolyn Suda introduced the first piece. She called the evening “a Czech night”, since two out of the three composers of the pieces were Czech: Josef Suk and Antonin Dvorak. In fact, the reason that KGS picked them both was because Suk was Dvorak’s son-in-law.
The allegro movement of the first piece, taken from Suk’s second opus, was an impressive dialogue between violin and cello. It featured a sorrowfully soaring melody from violinist David Suda. The andante movement slowed things down with a distinctly Romantic pattern, and the vivace movement made for a catchy and upbeat ending.
The preeminent classical/romantic composer Beethoven followed Suk. His cello sonata was noted by Knox College trio pianist and Professor anc Chair of Music Bruce Polay to be “caught between Classicism and Romanticism,” as many of Beethoven’s pieces are. He noted two differences which distinguished the piece from Classicism: the fluidity of the sections despite their vast differences and the use of odd harmonies in the piece. He pointed out that Beethoven had written the piece on a much smaller instrument, something like a fortepiano, as the piano at that time was not built as we know it today.
One audience member described Beethoven’s piece as “schizophrenic.” Indeed, Carolyn Suda points out that the tone of the piece is rather scattered. She said that Beethoven is “asking a question about meaning” in the andante movement, asking it again angrily in adagio and then in the allegro vivace, finally saying, “ah heck, I don’t have an answer, let’s just have some fun!”
The final piece rounded out the Czech Romantics with Dvorak’s Trio in E Minor, otherwise known as “Dumky”. It is one of Dvorak’s most well known pieces, and his last piano trio. Carolyn Suda said that Dvorak could be thought of as “either singing or dancing” in the piece.
Junior Ed Davis, a music major and composer himself, was at the concert for a report for his music class. He had to discuss the interaction between Romanticism and Classicism in these pieces. The composers involved were more than appropriate for such a discussion, as Beethoven is considered by many to be the bridge between the two eras.
Davis commented that the whole concert deserved praise, but that Dvorak’s “Dumky” was his favorite piece.
“There was never a dull moment, despite its length,” he said.
The KGS Trio consists of Polay, Carolyn Suda and David Suda. Polay plays piano and has been the artistic director/conductor of the KGS since 1983. Carolyn Suda, music faculty at Monmouth College and adjunct faculty at Knox College, is and has been the principal cellist for KGS since 1984. David Suda, professor of humanities and intellectual history at Monmouth College, plays violin and was concert master of KGS from 1984 to 2007.

Sam Brownson
Sam Brownson ’12 majored in philosophy and minored in anthropology and sociology. This is his second year copy editing for TKS; he is also currently a post-baccalaureate fellow in music and theater and will be composing the music for two productions as part of Knox’s Repertory Theatre Term. A self-described grammar Nazi, Sam worked as a TKS reporter and as a writer and editor for his high school newspaper before joining the TKS editorial staff. He also manages social media for Brownson Properties in Holland, Mich.

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