Making music for moms


— To the average person uneducated in musc, a piano trio might sound as if it consisted of three pianos performing together in concert.

But for those who have studied music, a piano trio has a history only known to those in the pre-Mozart era.

Christel Houston, Teresa Steffen and Bruce Dean have revived the tradition of the piano trio, which consists of a piano, violin and cello.

"We have a fair amount of name recognition, but then there's this thing about three pianos," violinist Steffen said. "People tell us, 'You should really change your name. It's a name that's been passed along in history. Who are we to change it now?"

At this year's Mother's Day concert, the piano trio will feature various composers with a sound that will delight the ears of daughters, mothers and grandmothers alike.

Steffen said the trio works hard to create a dynamic program fitting for all.

"We're trying to create a classical community for the kids. It's not happening for the adults, if it's not happening for the kids," Steffen said, who is also concert master for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra.

The program will begin with Aaron Copland's "Hoe-Down," from "Rodeo," a short and familiar tune to kick off the concert with a western sound.

Pianist Houston said this movement allows a classical violinist to find a taste of freedom in the fiddling style. Copland's western-style barn dance music brings a sense of improvisation to the unfamiliar ear, but the theme repeats itself, Houston said.

"Whenever we do a concert, we try to design it not just for adults, but for children," Steffen said.

"Andante," one of a Kindertrio in G by Julius Klengel, is a piece that Steffen said was surprisingly fitting for Mother's Day.

"It's sort of a lullaby sound. It's just charming," Steffen said. "We tried to choose lighter and more accessible things that we're really inspired by."

This somewhat child-like movement is calming, yet playful.

"It's like mom has walked out of the room and all the children jump out of bed and start playing," Houston said of the bridge in the piece. "Then you hear the parents coming back in and calming down the children. It's kind of a neat story."

From Ludwig van Beethoven's "Allegro con brio from Piano Trio No. 3," Steffen, Houston and Dean will produce heavy overtones sprinkled with angelic fluidity through their piano, violin and cello.

"It's like a struggle what theme will emerge in the end. It's the tension and release ... major and minor struggle," Houston said. "(Beethoven) must have been in one of his brooding moods."

"Skaters' Waltz" by Emile Waldteufel brings a traditional ice skating sound to the Depot. Smooth preludes interspersed with riveting jumps and spins, Houston said visions of ice skaters dance in the heads of listeners.

"All these you can make pictures with. You can watch them jumping," Houston said.

After intermission, Houston will perform a piano solo "First Dance in Bulgarian Rhythm" by Bela Bartok.

Houston said this solo "harmonious clash is unexpected and strange to the traditional ear." Bartok's A-tonal writing has created a contemporary and modern-style diversion through Bulgarian gypsy melodies from around the campfire.

In another piece that will warm the heart with a touch of blues and jazz, Paul Schoenfield's "Andante Moderato from Cafusic" will lead gracefully into "Piano Trio No. 1" by Joaquin Turina.

"That's the biggest work. It was recommended to us, and we loved it immediately," Steffen said. "It also stresses the imagination of the audience."

Although this is the Steamboat Piano Trio's second year performing a Mother's Day concert, Steffen said the group hopes to do it every year.

"We want to get out of our box," Steffen said. "We do some short (pieces) that people can really hold on to, but not get restless."

Then there are other featured pieces for those looking for that impressionistic type of work that digs deeper into the musical consciousness.

Since the trio started in 1998, Houston, Steffen and Dean have committed themselves to continuing their own music education, creating an educational performance series and inspiring participation in and an appreciation of classical music.

While traveling in Europe last summer, the piano trio stumbled upon the Turina piece and began accumulating other pieces throughout the year.

Because the members of the trio all are music educators in town, Houston said finding time to rehearse has been trying.

"But we want our students to see that life doesn't end when you're a teacher," Houston said.


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