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Living room experiences

Chamber Music Tulsa brings Weiss Kaplan Stumpf Trio to town

Mark Kaplan, Yael Weiss and Paul Stumpf

In the time before recordings, if you wanted to hear a big symphonic composition, you had to wait until some orchestra near you wanted to do it, which could be 30 years, said violinist Mark Kaplan of the Weiss Kaplan Stumpf piano trio. 

Chamber music was conceived as a way to bring otherwise inaccessible musical experiences into one’s own neighborhood. Composers began transcribing their orchestral works for trios or quartets so people could hear them by playing them with each other at home. Before long, composers began writing music tailored to this more intimate environment.

“Most audiences who come to chamber music concerts feel much more connected to the players and to the music because of the intimacy,” Kaplan said. 

Chamber Music Tulsa devotes its programming to these “living room experiences,” bringing internationally recognized quartets and trios into small and mid-sized venues for audiences to experience up close. 

On Nov. 14, the Weiss Kaplan Stumpf trio will perform a “salon” concert (with wine) in the PAC’s Westby Pavilion, followed the next night by a program in the larger Williams Theater.

The first concert features the Beethoven Trio in C Minor, Op. 1, No. 3 and the Haydn Trio in C Minor, Hob. XV:13. 

“Beethoven’s Opus 1 trios were dedicated to Haydn,” Kaplan noted. “He had studied with Haydn, but it was not necessarily the most cordial teacher/student relationship. Like many unbelievably gifted people, Beethoven maybe didn’t have the easiest time giving up things he wanted to do, even if he didn’t quite know how to do them yet.” 

The second concert features a Brahms trio that Kaplan described as “just glorious fun, with a very Hungarian aspect”; the famous Beethoven “Archduke,” and a 1998 piece in two movements by American composer Pierre Jalbert. 

Each of these pieces, especially in the case of Beethoven, asks a great deal of the musicians. 

“I think of it the way actors do,” Kaplan said. “You look to your own experiences to provide nourishment for understanding these different emotional worlds. The technical part of that is turning that into something you do with your instrument. A lot of people think great technique means you can play tons of notes very fast and in tune. But I use the word ‘technical’ to mean: you have a musical, emotional conception of the piece. How do you turn that into reality?” 

Kaplan, a graduate of Juilliard, has played solo engagements (on a 1685 Stradivarius) with the great national and international orchestras and serves as professor of music at Indiana University. Kaplan’s musical relationship with pianist Yael Weiss and cellist Paul Stumpf (both also accomplished soloists) goes back many years. 

“It’s a fascinating process,” Kaplan said. “In a piano trio the pianist has tons of notes, so her style determines a great deal. Often the strings act as a kind of unit, so they have to understand each other’s style of articulation and bowing and vibrato and phrasing and all that.” 

Underneath it all? Trust. “We communicate mostly by playing; we don’t tend to talk a lot about musical things,” he continued. “At some point after you’ve played a lot, when you have the right kind of respect for the people you’re playing with, then you can do things different ways and not completely decide things because you’re very sensitive to each other in moment of performance.”

“[Chamber ensembles are] maybe the most democratic institutions on the planet,” CMT Director Bruce Sorrell said. “At any given moment, everyone in the group is aware of what the leading voice is, how they fit into that scheme, where the energy is derived. No diva mentality here. Working together on a very close basis, contributing to a performance where essentially everyone is equal leads to a devotion to quality, and an equally interesting human dynamic of cooperation and respect.”

Those things are true in many kinds of musical ensembles, and certainly there’s nothing like the glory of being overwhelmed with grandeur in a concert hall. For me, though, chamber music is more like going to a one-act play, sitting face to face with artists as their relationships unfold before my eyes. It’s the deep satisfaction of presence, intimate and surprising: like the best possible home.

Saturday Salon Concert

Sat., Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
Westby Pavilion, Tulsa PAC

Tickets are limited. Call 918.587.3802 for availability

Sun., Nov 15, 3 p.m.
John H. Williams Theatre, Tulsa PAC

2:15 p.m. Pre-Concert lecture

Brahms: Trio in C Major, Op. 87
Jalbert: Trio (1998)
Beethoven: Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97, "Archduke"

For more from Alicia, read her article on Waiting for GodotBad Jews and Arts Alliance Tulsa.

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