Critical acclaim has followed the New York City-based Horszowski Trio ever since their stunning debut in the city in 2011. Their name honors the late Polish pianist and educator Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892 – 1993) and the ensemble’s pianist, Rieko Aizawa, was Horszowski’s last pupil at the esteemed Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
Although the group has emerged as champions of contemporary music, they have also performed the complete cycles of piano trios by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms.
“Playing and commissioning new music by living composers informs us greatly about how to approach older, more traditional music,” says the trio’s violinist, Jesse Mills. “It reminds us that all compositions emerge from a musical life.”
At age 12, Mills met a cellist named Raman Ramakrishnan who would later become a founding member of the much-revered Daedelus Quartet. “We became friends first,” Mills says, “but when we finally played music together that summer I was struck by his singing-style tone, just like I am now.”
In advance of reuniting with the cellist, Mills met pianist Aizawa shortly after she finished her studies in Philadelphia. Together they formed Duo Prism, touring extensively and later marrying. A random event revealed their next musical venture.
“A dear friend from Honolulu contacted Raman and asked him to bring his trio over to the islands for a concert,” Mills says. “Only problem was, Raman didn’t have a trio.” This provided the impetus for the three players to record some demos together. “Adding a third voice provided exponential growth in our musical complexity and range,” Mills says.
Joining the trio for a concert-finale reading of Erich Korngold’s unusually instrumented and highly suspenseful Suite for 2 Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand (1930) will be violinist Aaron Boyd, a former member of the acclaimed Escher Quartet. Korngold is most widely known for his numerous film and movie scores.
Surprisingly for such a new music pioneer like the two-time Grammy-nominated Mills, it is the program’s most traditional work, Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, composed in 1847, that feels especially weighty to him.
“Not to diminish the other pieces, but ever since we recorded all of the Schumann trios, we’ve simply fallen in love with them,” Mills says. “Much has been made of the composer’s struggles, and this piece runs the entire gamut of human and musical emotions.”
HORSZOWSKI TRIO 7:30pm Sunday, Feb. 1. Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel. $25-$52. 625-2212, chambermusicmontereybay.org