Kevin Puts called the piece he wrote for the Eroica Piano Trio “Trio Sinfonia” to reflect its orchestral spirit. “I do enjoy writing for orchestra,” he told me in a recent phone conversation. “I like the big sounds. There are so many possibilities, so many combinations of instruments.”
The more intimate genre of chamber music is a kind of musical conversation between distinct instrumental voices, but in “Trio Sinfonia,” which the Eroica will perform in Carmel this Friday, Puts focused on producing, or orchestrating, specific sounds or textures by combining two or three instruments. He says that while writing chamber music is a refreshing break from orchestral bigness, it’s also really hard. “Writing good chamber music is so difficult,” he says. “You can’t hide behind effects.”
The titles of the four movements of “Trio Sinfonia”—Overture - Risoluto; Scherzo - Presto enigmatico; Lento - Meditativo; Finale - Allegro molto energico—evoke the emotional intensity Puts is not afraid to create in his music. Puts wrote “Trio Sinfonia” with the Eroica Piano Trio in mind. “They’re a very dynamic group with a lot of energy,” he says. “This piece contains lyrical, romantic melodies they can really dig into.”
In 2007, the Miró Quartet premiered Puts’s “Credo,” a stunning work for string quartet commissioned by Chamber Music Monterey Bay. The success of that work—a best-selling, award-winning recording and multiple performances around the world—led to another commission, for CMMB’s Arc of Life project.
“My connection with Chamber Music Monterey Bay feels really good,” Puts says. “I feel a real kinship, a relationship of musical understanding. I know that if I give my best effort, it will be taken seriously. CMMB is a creative home for me.”
This fall, local audiences will have the opportunity to hear Puts's Arc of Life premiere, written for piano trio and clarinet. He is currently working on the piece, which like all the Arc of Life commissions is inspired by the Bill Viola video installation “Going Forth by Day.” (In April, the Daedalus Quartet will premiere the first Arc of Life piece, “White Water,” by Joan Tower.)
Last year, Puts’s beautiful first opera, “Silent Night,” was premiered by the Minnesota Opera. I’m not surprised when he tells me that writing opera feels natural to him; in so much of his work, there is an open-hearted feeling of spaciousness and storytelling.
If there’s a story in “Trio Sinfonia,” however, it is Puts’s abiding musical connection to Beethoven. The symphonic form, the C-minor key signature, the strong motivic presence—listen for it especially in the First Movement, he says—all these point to a strong feeling for a composer who is more than just an inspiration. “I’m always thinking of Beethoven,” he says.
Eroica Piano Trio, Friday, March 23, at 8:00 p.m., at Sunset Center in Carmel, presented by Chamber Music Monterey Bay.