California-based Trio Céleste makes their Music in the Morning debut.
California-based Trio Céleste makes their Music in the Morning debut.

Canadian violinist Iryna Krechkovsky and fellow musicians, cellist Ross Gasworth and pianist Kevin Kwan Loucks, may have named their ensemble Trio Céleste after the small upright piano-styled instrument of the same name, invented by August Mustel in 1866.  A more apt association though would be with the derivative of the Latin caelestis meaning ‘of the heavens’ because Trio Céleste’s performance at the Vancouver Academy of Music was nothing short of heavenly.

That’s not to say Music in the Morning proceeded without a hitch.  It didn’t, at least not from my point of view.  I had misunderstood the online publicity which hadn’t listed Opus numbers, nor had I scrutinized my program notes before the concert began, so when the Beethoven Piano Trio in Bb Major No 7 Opus 97, a favourite that I’d been joyfully anticipating, was replaced by Beethoven’s Piano Trio in Bb Major Opus 11, I was dumbfounded and hugely disappointed.

However, within the first several measures of the allegro con brio first movement, Trio Céleste had wooed me from my dismay into complete abandonment of all preconceptions and I remained entranced right up to the 6th and final lento maestoso movement of Dvorak’s Piano Trio in E minor No 4, Op.90 (“Dumky”) – the second and spectacularly spirited piano trio on the program.

Gasworth informed us that “Dumky” (the plural Czech term for folk music) is a series of lively folk songs and dances laced together with reflective, mostly sad interludes.  It opened with his evocative cello, joined by Krechkovsky’s haunting violin and finally by the perfectly rounded chords from Loucks on the Academy’s Steinway.  It was the first piece Trio Céleste ever performed as an ensemble. Their exquisite interpretation of it has been honed over the almost seven years they’ve been playing together, and it is included on their debut CD for sale after each performance.  I recommend it.

This outstanding young hip trio pulsed vitality and compassion, in varying degrees, into every phrase as well as the spaces between, and brought hearts to a standstill.  Introductions by Loucks and Gasworth were informative and witty, and the seventy minutes or so from beginning to glorious end were over too soon.

The trio’s elegant discourse, with each instrument graciously allowing the other to take precedence whenever appropriate and swelling without hesitation when it was their turn to add to the conversation, verified the accolades they’ve already received.  To add more would be to gush.

When executive artistic director of Music in the Morning, Adrian Sung, welcomed everyone, he also spoke of how impressed he’d been by the insightful musical interpretations of wife/husband team, Krechkovsky and Loucks, when he’d met them at a music fest in Montreal during their courtship ten years ago. When he’d heard that they and Gasworth would be in Vancouver, he leapt at the opportunity to book them and so we were blessed to reap the benefit of that wonderful happenstance.

The one pity is that there can be only three performances, the last of which will be on Friday, February 15 at Christ Church Cathedral.  It will be followed by a brown bag lunch and conversation with the trio, led by music aficionado June Goldsmith.

Although Trio Céleste’s impeccable musicianship has gained them worldwide recognition since they teamed up in 2012, most of their North American appearances have been in the United States where they live.  However, if their recent performance at the Vancouver Academy is anything to go by, they’ll be travelling north from Southern California much more frequently.  I can’t wait!

As an aside: this Luddite was impressed by the switch from sheet music and page turners to iPads and nothing else.  It is far less distracting and appears to becoming the norm.  The King’s Singers also trucked iPads onstage when they recently sang at the Chan.

The final performance by Trio Céleste takes place Friday, February 15 at Christ Church Cathedral (690 Burrard St, Vancouver). Visit musicinthemorning.org for tickets and information.