Chautauqua Trio to present elegiac repertoire honoring great artists

Chautauqua Trio

Alyssa Bump
Contributing Writer

Musical elegies and melodies make up the program for this weekend’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series. 

The Chautauqua Trio will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall with a riveting display of compositions dedicated to the memory of two exemplary composers. 

The trio features Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra members Vahn Armstrong on violin and Jolyon Pegis on cello, with School of Music faculty Kanae Matsumoto Giampietro on piano. 

Saturday’s program includes Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello and Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50. 

“The Tchaikovsky is so big and so lush, and the Ravel is lean, rhythmically tricky and harmonically really challenging,” Pegis said. “(The Ravel) is a wonderful piece. … The interplay between the two instruments is so expertly done.”

Ravel’s piece will be performed by Armstrong and Pegis alone; Matsumoto Giampietro will join the pair onstage for the final Tchaikovsky piece.

The Sonata for Violin and Cello is dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy, one of Ravel’s mentors who died in 1918. Tchaikovsky dedicated his Piano Trio “to the memory of a great artist,” referring to his dear friend and mentor Nicholas Rubinstein, whose death in 1881 consumed Tchaikovsky with grief.

“Both (pieces) were written in memorial,” Armstrong said. “I think the Tchaikovsky is more obviously a memorial, (while) the Ravel is more of an homage.”

Even though the repertoire induces funereal and mournful tones, both pieces, particularly the Tchaikovsky, are extremely dynamic.

“In spite of the fact that there are elements in the Tchaikovsky that are very sad, I would say that that is not the general feeling,” Armstrong said. “I think a lot of it is really paying tribute to Rubinstein virtuosity. … There are (elements) that are brilliant, funny, charming, elegant and scholarly. … It’s got it all.”

Tchaikovsky’s work is a massive piece that takes nearly 45 minutes to perform, and Pegis has “been waiting years to perform” it.

All of the Chautauqua Trio members hope the audience will be “deeply moved by this music,” Armstrong said. 

Armstrong has performed with the CSO for 31 seasons, and Pegis joined 30 years ago. Matsumoto Giampietro has served on the School of Music faculty for 18 years.

Chamber music is a “very special kind of experience” because the form invites “very personal and individual expression,” Armstrong said.

Although Armstrong and Pegis have been performing together for decades, this will be their first time playing with the accompaniment of Matsumoto Giampietro. 

Matsumoto Giampietro has performed for the Saturday chamber series several times over the years. Her last chamber performance took place in 2019 in the form of a piano duo with Martin Dubé. Prior to that, she performed with the late violinist Jacques Israelievitch. 

“This time, especially, I am thinking about Mr. Israelievitch,” Matsumoto Giampietro said. “I learned a tremendous amount of (how to) play with strings from him.”

Matsumoto Giampietro is excited to perform chamber music once again with “wonderful string players” from the CSO.

“(Chamber) music is fantastic, and composers have reserved some of their most special ideas for their chamber music pieces because they know that it’s going to be performed in an intimate setting for people who are probably thoroughgoing music lovers,” Armstrong said. “… It’s a great pleasure to play.”


The author Alyssa Bump

Alyssa Bump is a life-long Western New Yorker, but this is her first season on the grounds of Chautauqua. She is eager to recap the Interfaith Lecture Series while broadening her perspective of the human experience. Alyssa is a senior at SUNY Fredonia, majoring in journalism and public relations with a minor in professional writing. As editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, The Leader, Alyssa focuses on becoming a compelling storyteller and an innovative leader.