Neave Trio returns to the Berkshires for two events
New Marlborough — The musical road from Boston to the Berkshires is well traveled. On Saturday, East Coast ensemble Neave Trio returns to perform in the 1839 New Marlborough Meeting House as part of the long-running Music and More concert series.
Neave Trio is Ensemble-in-Residence at Boston's Longy School of Music, where cellist Mikhail Veselov and violinist Anna Williams met in graduate school. Joining the faculty five years later, they have come full circle, said Williams. "We were students, and now we're teaching there."
After several years spent in San Diego, Calif., Williams said she is happy to be back in her native Boston. "It's nice to have seasons even if they're a little unpredictable," she said.
The musicians are no strangers to the Berkshires. They opened the 2016 Music and More season, and for nine summers have coached adult amateur musicians at ArtsAhimsa Chamber Music Festival at Belvoir Terrace in Lenox. Veselov and Williams met Japanese pianist and former Tanglewood Music Center Fellow Eri Nakamura there, and invited her to join the trio.
Since 2010, Neave Trio has appeared across the U.S. and internationally, including Canada, England and Russia. Last year, they performed in Nakamura's home town of Hiroshima. "It was very special and meaningful to be there," Williams said.
They call themselves "Neave" — an Irish Gaelic name meaning "bright" and "radiant" — after the daughter of a close friend. They regularly champion new works and have two forthcoming albums — all-Piazzolla and women composers — to add to two already issued.
"The music that we love has such a power to connect us to one another on a really profound level," Williams said.
At Music and More they will perform piano trios by Haydn and Schumann, both in G minor, and Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor — "a little something for everybody," Williams said.
"The Haydn has a faux-Baroque feel, there's a lot of humor, and twists and turns you would expect from Haydn, but in a Baroque idiom."
Written in wartime Russia in 1944, Shostakovich's work is "an intense musical experience [that is] quite personal to the trio," Williams said.
"Misha [Veselov] is originally from St. Petersburg. His grandmother grew up during the 900-day Leningrad blockade and would tell stories of what that was like. Having that personal experience makes it very, very vivid for us."
The work is "dark and eerie," said Williams, with a ghostly opening of solo cello harmonics. "It has a folk song, and other times it's militaristic, almost sardonic in terms of the dark humor. The fourth movement is really epic, explosive at times, before ending quite peacefully with the possibility of hope."
"It's an emotional work, [and] a privilege to play it."
Schumann wrote his piano trio while struggling with mental health issues, visible in some surprisingly abrupt changes of mood, Williams noted. "He'll be very fast and then switch on a dime to very lyrical or even humorous. It's exciting with gorgeous moments, and really fun to play."
This unpredictability is a common thread throughout the program, Williams said.
The trio will also perform a different program in Great Barrington on Saturday, Sept. 29, as part of the Leaf Peeper concert series.
Berkshire audiences, Williams said, are "attentive, informed and excited about going on the journey with the artists."
Music and More director Ben Harms agreed.
A percussionist who has worked at the Metropolitan Opera for 50 years and performs regularly around the Berkshire region, Harms took the helm of Music and More following the 2014 death of pianist Harold Lewin, who founded the series in 1991 and had led it ever since.
"[Lewin] was tireless in his advocacy for the Meeting House and the series," said Harms, noting his predecessor's family donated a Bechstein grand piano to the 220-seat venue in his memory.
"[It's] a beautiful old former Congregational Church that we renovated over the years," Harms said. Improvements have included new lighting and a permanent stage to replace the original painted plywood platform.
"The acoustics and ambience of the Meeting House are just terrific," he added. "And it helps build a sense of community."
Harms programs the series alongside a committee and his wife, renowned viola de gamba player Lucy Bardo. Both perform with long-established Renaissance music ensemble Calliope.
Under the auspices of the New Marlborough Village Association, Music and More presents six events in late summer and fall with recitals, chamber and eclectic music concerts, and conversations between distinguished authors. Diverse programs over the years have included Shakespeare readings, marionettes and a wild animal show with a giant snake and baby lion.
"You can do anything with `and More'," Harms said.
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