KALICHSTEIN/LAREDO/ROBINSON TRIO

Like virtually all major orchestras and chamber groups, the Kalichstein/Laredo/Robinson Trio is by and large a curator of the time-proven classical canon. As such the threesome is competing for listeners who already have access to laudable performances of the standards. The trio’s members–pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo, and cellist Sharon Robinson (Laredo’s wife and duet partner)–are accomplished veteran instrumentalists capable of sparks and sparkles in a live recital, but that still might not compel nondevotees to sit through another rendition of a Brahms trio. Fortunately, as the trio has become more eloquent and versatile over its two-decade-long partnership, composers have begun to write for it, possibly giving a new lease on life to a moribund genre. Works commissioned from Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Leon Kirchner, and Arvo Part, included on the trio’s latest CD, Legacies (Arabesque), offer fresh ideas for this instrumental combination; and the trio’s precise, impassioned playing argues for a hearing in a concert hall. But presenters, second-guessing the tastes of their core patrons, seem reluctant to schedule a sampler. Indeed, on the trio’s tour this season only Kirchner’s Piano Trio no. 2 and Part’s Adagio will be performed, each sandwiched between masterworks. Surprisingly, neither is on the program at Mandel Hall–you’d think a university crowd would be receptive to recent works. The excuse here seems to be the milestone-anniversary hook. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of its debut (at the White House), the trio will also honor the centennial of the death of Brahms (Piano Trio no. 1 in B Major) and the 150th anniversary of the death of Mendelssohn (Piano Trio no. 2 in C Minor). Beethoven’s Trio in D Major rounds out the status-quo program, which will reaffirm the trio’s place in the top echelon of traditional chamber players but will not reveal its high reputation among today’s composers. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Christian Steiner.