Reviews - Concordia String Trio

Talent abounds in String Trio
Feb. 4 recital at Dingeldine to include Beethoven and Vaclav Nelhybel

By Theo Jean Kenyon of the Peoria Journal Star, Sunday January 21, 2007

PEORIA - They're talented musicians in their own right, and they will come together as the Concordia String Trio in a recital Feb. 4 at Bradley University's Dingeldine Music Center. Marcia Henry Liebenow, violinist, is concertmaster of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and a Bradley faculty member. She will be joined by Leslie Perna, viola, and Darry Dolezal, cello, both on the faculty at the University of Missouri and members of the Esterhazy Quartet.

Their talents will be combined in a recital that will include Beethoven's "Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello in G Major"; Irving Fine's "Fantasia for String Trio" and Vaclav Nelhybel's "Four Miniatures for Three Strings."

Liebenow said the trio is excited about the pieces for this concert.

"The Irving Fine 'Fantasia for String Trio' is an old friend of ours that we are revisiting this season. We have played it before on one of our Boston tours and also at the Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival in Vermont," she said.

Fine, an American composer of the mid-20th century, earned degrees from Harvard University and was a conducting pupil of Serge Koussevitzky. Fine also studied composition with Nadia Boulanger, who taught many of the world's greatest 20th century composers.

The Nelhybel piece is a short but charming work by the Czech composer, Liebenow said, with a folk dance feeling in its first and last movements.

She described the Beethoven trio as one of the standards for the string trio repertoire, but adds that the scherzo movement actually has two trios, "and we are including both, which is not always done." Music for this second trio has been preserved on a single sheet in Beethoven's handwriting, Liebenow said, and the final movement is a "zippy presto."

The trio performed throughout the Midwest in 2006, including a concert in Chicago, and also had a weeklong concert tour in Boston last March. But because trio members all have busy jobs and many individual commitments, the trio will have just this concert and one in Missouri this season, Liebenow said.

Her own commitments include a chamber music recital today with flutist Mathieu Dufour, this weekend's Peoria Symphony featured soloist, and she will be a soloist with the Bradley Symphonic Winds in its "Tribute to John Philip Sousa" on Feb. 25.

She also is the featured soloist with the Peoria Symphony for its March 24 subscription concert and will be giving a recital with pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi on March 13 at Dingeldine Music Center.

That recital will feature two of the Grieg sonatas the two musicians recorded last year, as well as a Mozart sonata.

The Concordia Trio will repeat its Feb. 4 recital program here at the University of Missouri-Columbia on Feb. 7

The trio is featured on a Capstone CD titled " '90s Timeflow - Chamber Music of Alan Schmitz" and recently recorded "Six Bagatelles for String Trio" by Andrew List, soon to be released on CD.

Review of concert
Saturday, April 1, 2006, St. Clements Shrine, Boston, MA

By David Cleary, New Music Connoisseur (

Consisting of players based in the Midwest, the Concordia String Trio decided to head east and strut their stuff before a Beantown audience. They have plenty to be proud of, too, as their first-rate concert was a real winner.

The three recent items on the program were Boston premieres. String Trio No. 1: Zazen by David Colson consists of five relatively brief character movements that take their inspiration from Buddhist concepts. Eccentric, even lopsided in feel, the piece shouldn't work -- yet somehow it does, in part because ideas are crystal clear and instrumental colors are felicitous and striking. And lurking behind it all is a friendly musical personality that sees everything with a twinkle in its eye and a wry, knowing grin.

Andrew List co-opts the dissonant Neoclassic idiom favored by Piston and Copland for his trio Serenade for Margo without playing the parrot. True to this genre, its textures never become sludgy or overwrought, yet there's significant depth and energy underscoring its genial, good-natured speech. And its tripartite structure is clearly articulated, easily able to accommodate several modest excursions that further develop material. This is how low-key music should sound.

John McDonald's Six Poems of Paul Celan for Piano Quartet is a recent rescoring of his earlier setting of this writer's verse for soprano and small ensemble. Happily, one cannot readily ascertain its origins as a vocal piece, the work seeming as if it were always meant for piano quartet. And music in McDonald's portfolio never gets more Expressionist than this; raw and highly-charged, this could be a soundtrack to the scariest nightmare one can conjure up. Yet there's no obvious kinship here to older models -- this anguish is McDonald's alone.

Closing the evening was the A Minor String Trio of Max Reger. Despite an early 20th-century composition date, this is ripe late Romantic stuff through and through. The piece regrettably has its share of problems: material does not flow cogently, and harmonies twist strangely like those of Richard Strauss while not progressing convincingly. Unlike string quartets, though, string trios cannot afford to be repertoire snobs. One could do worse.

Performances were excellent. Marcia Henry Liebenow (violin), Leslie Perna (viola), and Darry Dolezal (cello) made a fine chamber music mix; their ensemble sound meshed as smoothly as a set of perfectly calibrated gears. Intonation here was spot on. And none of this precluded top-quality individual efforts -- all three executed exposed passages with confidence and cleanliness. The always-reliable Mr. McDonald provided a typically impeccable keyboard effort to the proceedings.

Review excerpts
Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival
Friday-Sunday, July 8-10, 2005
Irasburg and Newport, VT

By David Cleary, New Music Connoisseur (

Henry Cowell’s string trio Seven Paragraphs consists of just over a half-dozen tonally oriented character pieces—brief, but purposeful and chockfull of personality and craft… There were compelling presentations by the intelligently polished Concordia Strong Trio (Marcia Henry on violin, Leslie Perna on viola, Darry Dolezal on cello.”

Bradley University
February 20 Recital

By Phil Marcus, Peoria Times-Observer, March 2, 2005

“On Feb. 20, a concert at Dingeldine was presented by PSO concertmaster Marcia Henry Liebenow and her colleagues of the Concordia String Trio. The group’s rich sound and good intonation was demonstrated in the little-known “Trio in C Minor” by 19th century Viennese composer Julius Zellner, music with lyrical sweep reminiscent of Dvorak and solid construction and rhythmic energy reminiscent of Brahms, with just a hint of Johann Strauss Jr. in the third movement trio.

A musical highlight of this concert was the “Seven Paragraphs for String Trio” by under-appreciated American composer Henry Cowell, which contrasted three short hymn-like movements with four faster and wilder short movements or “paragraphs.”

Also on the program was the “Trio Op. 31” by American composer Robert Muczynski. In the slow, passionate second movement, the lowest notes of Darry Dolezal’s cello combined exquisitely with the sweetest high notes of Liebenow’s violin, with Leslie Parna’s viola providing the perfect blend between the two.

In this work, the Concordia String Trio proved again that a good string trio has the richness of a string quartet but with greater transparency, especially in live concert with a good acoustic.”