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New York, New York


A New York harpist trying to figure things out - and the mishaps and adventures that inevitably ensue.

A Trio of Friends at (le) Poisson Rouge

Kathryn Sloat

Tonight was a night of trios - the Debussy trio instrumentation of flute, harp, and viola, to be exact. I went to the cd release concert of the ensemble Tre Voci, comprised of Marina Piccinini (flute), Sivan Magen (harp), and Kim Kashkashian (viola) - all of them superstars on their instruments. It was my first time going to Le Poisson Rouge, a very cool concert venue downtown in the village. I invited a friend of mine who plays the flute to come along, as we had played the Debussy Sonata a year ago. Completely by chance (FATE???), she saw a violist that she knew from Loft Opera and we all sat at a table together. We talked about forming our own trio together. It’s going to happen. 

The trio played a trio of trios - a transcription of a work by Rameau, a newer work by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, and of course, the piece that started it all - Claude Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola and harp. 

I heard Sivan play once before, about a year ago, and I was immediately hooked by his performing abilities. He has an amazing range of sound and emotion in his playing - one second his tone is light and delicate, and the next, harsh and loud. All of his movements are extremely precise, and confident. He is absolutely fearless. 

Tonight’s performance was no exception. The Baroque piece by Rameau was all grace and delicacy. His playing is so clean - whereas I tend to fumble through scales and nitpicky passages, his every note was completely clear. 

The more aggressive side of Sivan’s playing really came out in the Gubaidulina, in passages of ferocious glissandos and fast notes that ripped up and down the harp. There were a number of extended techniques used in this piece to great effect, including paper harp (sliding a strip of paper through the strings), as well as using what looked like a screwdriver to bend pitches and buzz against one of the bottom wire strings. 

And then, of course, there was the Debussy. As I said, my friend and I had played this piece about a year ago, so we were very excited to hear it again! The Debussy trio is not only not easy to play, but it is very difficult to put together. There are so many fluctuations in tempo that it is not the kind of piece you can just sit down and play through - I remember each little section required painstaking rehearsal, and then stringing it all together required lots of practice, as well. This was really where the superior ensemble skills of Tre Voci really showed. They appeared to be of one mind, anticipating all of the tempo changes and interacting seamlessly with each other.

I suspect they may have invented musical telepathy. Seriously, it was scary good.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were treated to an encore! They came back and played the last movement of a transcription of Ravel’s Sonatine, by Carlos Salzedo. One of my chamber coaches was trying to convince us to play this last year, and I’m glad we didn’t, because yikes. Extremely difficult. 

And, I got another cd signed by Sivan Magen! When I show up to his solo recital in a few weeks (at Carnegie Hall, on October 21st!), he may suspect that I am stalking him. Oh well. Totally worth it.