We arrived five or 10 minutes late, because Boston's old street grids are counterintuitive and there are multiple blocks with the same name. But alas, we arrived. And there were three musicians playing in a pink parlor with a group of about 15 listening intently. Three women holding court: a bassoonist (Natalie Zemba), an oboe (Jessica Warren), and the pianist (Stephanie Mao). The Kalliope Trio. Had they already played the Poulenc?
During the brief respite between pieces, we found seats, and the program continued with one more piece before intermission: Concert Fantasy on Rossini's L’Italiana in Algieri, "a virtuosic work written in 1856 by bassoonist Eugene Jancourt and oboist Charles Triebert, two exceptionally talented Parisian musicians," who with this 12 minute enchantment, sought to convince future composers that double reed instruments could provide world-class chamber music (program notes).
And, indeed, this kind of trio is a rare thing to hear: It was my first time experiencing it. I've heard a bassoon and piano duo before, but the added oboe contributed an extra strand of sound that lusciously, effortlessly connected the bassoon's rich melody with the piano's playful harmony. I watched as pianist, Stephanie Mao's silvery arpeggios dotted the aural landscape with elfin-like finesse, and noted that these three instruments make unexpected, perfect sense together.
The second half of the program included the second half of Poulenc's Piano Trio (1926), which I learned, is "arguably the most famous piano/double reed trio ever written," with a virtuosic piano part and lyrical lines for oboe and bassoon (program notes). [I had missed the Poulenc in the first half] The evening closed with Beethoven's Op. 38, originally written as a septet and arranged as a trio when the composer was 30.
Though I carry my instrument in my larynx rather than in my hands, as a woman myself, it felt satisfying seeing these accomplished female musicians bringing intricate, demanding, and beautiful music to life. They named their project after a Greek goddess no less: Kalliope, whose name means "beautiful sound" -- the goddess of eloquence and poetry, who bore the bard Orpheus and Linus, the inventor of melody and rhythm. Kalliope, the wisest and most assertive of the Muses...