Trio Virado brings brio to Tannery Pond
NEW LEBANON -- Expect a new sound in town Saturday at the former tannery of Mount Lebanon Shaker Village.
Flutist Amy Porter, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez and guitarist Joao Luiz are each established musicians in their own right; performing together as Trio Virado, they will bring a rarely heard chamber combination and distinctly Brazilian flavor to the Tannery Pond Concert summer series.
Luiz is a composer, teacher and international performer with the award-winning Brasil Guitar Duo, recently returned from touring in China. He first heard a guitar, viola and flute instrument configuration while performing at the Leo Brouwer Festival in his native town of Sao Paulo, at the Brazilian premier of "Landscapes, Women and Portraits," which esteemed contemporary Cuban composer and guitarist Brouwer wrote for a European trio.
"I thought it was amazing the way he combined these instruments and they worked together," Luiz said.
Back in his adopted home of New York, he decided to find musicians to play the piece with him. His manager, Marianne Sciolino, connected him with Porter and Hernandez, whom she also represented. Hernandez was a founding member of the renowned Harlem Quartet, while Porter has enjoyed a long career as soloist, orchestral member and educator.
In 2012, they got together to play music by Astor Piazzolla.
"It was magical," Luiz recalled.
He named the ensemble "Trio Virado," which means "upside down" in Portuguese, because of the musicians' different backgrounds and the very different dynamic ranges of their instruments, he said.
"It was a match made in heaven," said Porter, reached amid a flurry of preparations for her upcoming wedding to her former childhood sweetheart. She knows the upstate region well after spending two seasons as a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow.
While all three performers are acclaimed musicians -- Montreal-born Hernandez has appeared twice at the Tannery with the Harlem Quartet -- this is not a time for showcasing their individual talents, Porter said.
In concert as Trio Virado, they play all together, all the time, she said.
"I feel that really good programming ingredients are educating, then inspiring somewhat, and also have some sensationalism, so I think you'll find all those three things," she added.
Saturday's program will include a serenade by 19th-century Italian composer Francesco Molino and a Habanera by Maurice Ravel, as well as music written for Trio Virado by New York composer Frederic Hand, Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad and Luiz, and works by Brouwer, Piazzolla and Stephen Dodgson.
"I've been trying to encourage composers to write pieces for us," Luiz said. "I myself am doing some of the arrangements for the group because, as there are not many pieces originally written for this kind of ensemble, you have to create the repertoire."
Luiz's own composition "Todas as Manhas" (All Mornings) is a theme and variations inspired by the iconic "Manha de Carnaval" (Carnival Morning) from the Oscar-winning 1959 Brazilian movie "Black Orpheus." Luiz first saw the film while appearing at a festival in Texas on his first visit to the U.S.
"[His piece] takes all the movie narrative into consideration," Luiz said, "and also tries to bring out the essence of Brazilian music, the different rhythms of Carnaval in many different parts of the country."
"I always love having something that is totally different, off the beaten path," said Berlin-born concert series founder Christian Steiner. When he scheduled Latin American music in the past, "people were restricted from dancing in the aisles," he recalled.
For 24 seasons Steiner has presented chamber ensembles and rising stars, as well as world famous performers including Jessye Norman, Midori and Emanuel Ax, whom he befriended as an acclaimed photographer of musicians. Himself a trained concert pianist, Steiner, now 77, occasionally accompanied artists in performance, until this year with his little white terrier Nikolai sitting under the piano at rehearsals.
"He always thought that I played very well -- even if I didn't," Steiner said.
Another star of the concert series is the historic Shaker tannery building, with simple wood interior, wrought iron balcony railings and superior acoustics that make each concert a memorable and enriching musical experience. A frigid midwinter test of the acoustics 25 years ago with musicians playing in fingerless gloves amply revealed the caliber of the venue, Steiner said.
On Saturday, the audience can expect Trio Virado to heat things up.
If you go ...
What: Trio Virado at Tannery Pond Concerts
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23
Where: Darrow School, Darrow Road, New Lebanon, N.Y.
Admission: $30 to $39
Information: (888) 820-9441, tannerypondconcerts.org