As he hops from country to country with the Vienna Piano Trio, pianist Stefan Mendl said the varying reactions to his performances are sometimes the most entertaining part.
“In South America, it’s like a rock concert,” he said. “People are on their feet cheering.”
Mendl and the rest of the rock star trio will make a pit stop at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Logan Chamber Music Series. Trios by Haydn and Mendelssohn will be featured as part of the hour-long recital.
A piano trio includes a string bass, violin and its namesake piano. Mention chamber music and the typical string quartet likely jumps to mind, which, Mendl said, is a shame because of the unique textures provided by the trio’s piano voice.
“There are some composers who really wrote their most compassionate and most intimate works for [piano trio],” Mendl said. “We always felt it’s a bit of a pity to leave the field only to soloists who would come together for two, three rehearsals and then perform these things, whereas we really rehearse on a daily basis, and we really make this kind of repertoire our main occupation. The repertoire deserves it.”
True to its name, the trio often performs the music of Viennese composers. This is partially because Haydn, one of the trailblazers in chamber music, was based in Vienna. But Mendl said they are not picky with their program material — they perform music ranging from 19th century to present day.
“We play basically everything that’s available,” he said.
The people who compose that “we” has changed over the years. Mendl, in fact, is the only original member of the group. As positions have opened, Mendl described an arduous search for candidates akin to dating where many auditions are used to gauge a player’s compatibility in approach to and performance of music. It’s an ordeal, Mendl said, but one that is ultimately worth it.
“This is one thing that has kept us from getting too routine — new people,” he said.
These new people add life to old music. Standard repertoire, which includes today’s Haydn and Mendelssohn, are regular parts of the trio’s performance material. Mendl has performed these standards for more than two decades now, but he said he’s not likely to ever grow tired of playing them.
“In spite of being very widely performed, these masterpieces hide a lot of secrets, and you will never, ever discover them all,” Mendl said. “After 25 years, I can say I’ve never gotten bored with the standard repertoire.”