Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Just as with food, literature, and visual art, music can be a unifying force that transcends borders and ideologies. Music can also be something that people engage in debates about, not just from the perspectives of music critics, but also the very musicians themselves. This very careful balance between egos, as well as how great musicians interpret music, is covered in a recent Piano Talks production titled “Special Episode: Hermitage Piano Trio,” hosted by celebrated pianist Janara Khassenova.
Just as a little background for those who aren’t aware of Hermitage Piano Trio, they were formed by three Russian-American musicians who had already achieved success in their individual careers when they banded together in 2011. They officially formed in New York and include pianist Ilya Kazantsev, cellist Sergey Antonov, and violinist Misha Keylin.
As stated on their website: “The Trio is a champion of immense repertoire ranging from the works of the great European tradition to more contemporary American pieces. Hallmarks of the Hermitage Piano Trio is their impeccable musicianship, sumptuous sound, and polished skill, which have led to demand for many repeat performances.”
Against the backdrop of the picturesque city of Newport, Rhode Island, along the coastline of the New England region, Khassenova recently sat down with the Hermitage Piano Trio to talk with them.
One of the first questions (and a logical one) that Khassenova asks the Trio is how they were affected by the governmental COVID-19 lockdowns. As travel was restricted and “social distancing” enforced, at least for the common people of the world, the musicians mention that recent times have been challenging. After all, the Trio had just been nominated for several Grammy Awards in 2020 when things quickly went into lockdown mode only a month later.
They also emphasize that they faced these numerous issues together and mention that there is nothing like sitting shoulder to shoulder with other musicians while you all play your different instruments in order to form the beautiful aural tapestries known as music. In other words—live music can never be duplicated by recordings.
Working as a group of accomplished and passionate musicians can also be a challenge in and of itself. As mentioned previously, musicians’ interpretations of music can be vastly different from one another. But as Keylin adroitly points out, to be successful (at least in a group), musicians must learn to play as one. That doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing anything—it’s more about listening and understanding each other. You can either have three “superstars” who compete with one another or three who work together to help make their combined music come out.
One of the things that make this episode so enjoyable is that the interview is mixed with the Trio playing pieces by such famous pianists and conductors as German composer Johannes Brahms, and Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
The backgrounds of each member in the Trio are also touched on and they talk about their various challenges, triumphs, and philosophical outlooks. All of these elements combine to make for a fascinating watch that is not only educational and inspiring but also contains some useful lessons for living a life of exceptional quality.
Starring: Janara Khassenova, Misha Keylin, Sergey Antonov, Ilya Kazantsev Running Time: 24 minutes Release Date: Jan. 24, 2022 Rated: 4.5 stars out of 5
Watch on Epoch Cinema—visit the link here.