Piano Trios feature a piano with any variety of two other instruments. As a pianist, I have had the pleasure of playing Piano Trio repertoire with flute and cello as well as with two flutes. Super fun and challenging! A traditional Piano Trio features a pianist, violinist and cellist.
The Solasta Piano Trio follows the traditional format, featuring maestro musicians, pianist Eva Schaumkell, violinist Niv Ashkenazi and cellist Zack Reaves. They will be performing a fantastic program they have curated especially for us of works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Ludwig van Beethoven, Clara Schumann and George Gershwin with immersive imagery and lighting on November 5, 2023 at 4 PM.
For those who aren’t yet familiar with these stellar musicians, I’m pleased to provide a little introduction.
German pianist Eva Schaumkell is an award-winning charismatic soloist who has performed in concert halls on three continents including Buckingham Palace, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and Walt Disney Concert Hall. Dr. Schaumkell earned her Doctorate with distinction at the USC Thornton School of Music. She is in high demand not only for her solo performances but also for masterclasses, competition adjudications and coaching chamber music while maintaining a private teaching studio.
Violinist and recording artist Niv Ashkenazi has made several Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center appearances in addition to performing in Europe, the Middle East and across North America. Niv has performed with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Juilliard String Quartet among other notable collaborations. His 2020 debut album, Violins of Hope was named one of the 10 best classical recordings of 2020 by the Chicago Tribune and was a featured soloist alongside Yo-Yo-Ma for the PBS documentary Harbor from the Holocaust.
Cellist, arranger and recording artist Zack Reaves has performed internationally with the award winning Altius Quartet. Zack has served as Visiting Music Director and Principal Cellist of the Oklahoma Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and Assistant Principal Cellist of the Boulder Philharmonic. He has recorded albums with the Altius Quartet and the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble. Zack has taught at several Universities and currently serves as a teaching artist with the LA Phil’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, YOLA while maintaining his own private studio.
A little backstory, last April 2023, pianist Eva Schaumkell and her husband, Vijay Venkatesh, aka The Vieness Piano Duo, graced our stage with an outstanding concert combining curated imagery and lighting for each piece. Their Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals came to life with larger than life animal imagery for each movement. You could hear the audience catch their breath with each piece. My favorite? The Aquarium! Although the Finale brought the audience to their feet with a standing ovation. Fantastic immersive experience for all.
After the concert, Eva took a moment to introduce me to cellist Zack Reaves. Their Solasta Piano Trio and its amazing repertoire, sounded like an excellent addition to Athena’s concert series and the November 5, 2023 concert date was set.
I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with violinist Niv Ashkenazi and look forward to meeting him in person at the rehearsal and concert.
And now I invite you to join me in my conversation with The Solasta Piano Trio!
LRW: Eva, Niv, and Zack, it’s a pleasure introducing you to our readers. We are honored to have you and your Solasta Piano Trio in The Athena Foundation for the Arts 2023 Fall Concert Series.
LRW: May I ask, what is the meaning of the name Solasta? Why a piano trio and not a quartet, quintet or other size ensemble?
ES: “Solasta” is a word of Scottish Gaelic origin which means “luminous, or shining.” Seeing as the Solasta Piano Trio formed right here in sunny SoCal, it seemed like the perfect name. In addition, we are all three very upbeat and bright personalities and our rehearsals are full of laughter (and hard work, obviously!)
We formed as a trio while teaching for a local chamber music program for young musicians. Having enjoyed performing together for a faculty concert, we decided to move forward as a permanent ensemble to explore more of the piano trio repertoire together. It also allows us the freedom to invite guest performers in the future should we ever decide to program piano quartets or quintets.
LRW: So sool. I’m such a word nerd. Happily adding Solasta to my vocabulary! Inspiring story of how music brought you three shiny spirits together. For your Athena concert, may I ask how you decided on the pieces for this program? Why these composers? Why now?
ES: We believe that it’s important to program works that are accessible to our audiences while still presenting music that’s varied, meaningful and perhaps less-often heard. Two of the shorter works by Gershwin and Shostakovitch are transcriptions, bringing something fresh to the piano trio repertoire. Clara Schumann’s music has been gaining more traction in recent years, but is still less well-known than it deserves. And Beethoven’s “Ghost” trio is a perennial favorite.
LRW: Agreed. Glad to hear. I’m a fellow champion of lesser known works and composers, especially Clara Schumann. Great selections for our program. Can you hint at the beautiful imagery you’ve selected for your pieces and why they were chosen?
ES: Many of the works we have programmed invoke a certain mood or are reminiscent of a specific place, and we have curated imagery to subtly underscore the overall feeling we aim to convey with the music. Shostakovich’s dances, for instance, we felt are evocative of snowy, wintery landscapes and glamorous ballrooms of the previous century. The matching imagery helps the listener fully immerse themselves in the music and let their imagination take over. For Clara Schumann, we have chosen beautiful photographs of some of the German towns in which she lived, worked, and found inspiration.
LRW: I love learning how you’ve thoughtfully paired your artistic visions with the nuances of each piece. The audience is in for an amazing experience. May I ask, does The Solasta Piano Trio have plans to record these stunning duos and solos?
ES: One movement from Beethoven’s Ghost Trio can already be found on youtube, as a little sneak-peak at our program. We certainly plan to record the other pieces down the line as well!
LRW: So glad to hear. I look forward to those recordings when they’re available. In closing, do each of you happen to have a favorite quote by a composer or musician that you’d like to share with our readers?
LRW: Wow! Thank you so much for the inspo. We’re excited for your upcoming concert. Thank you for your gracious time for this brief and lovely interview.
To learn more about these remarkable musicians, visit their websites and follow them on their social media platforms.
Eager to attend? Please see below.
Sunday, November 5, 2023
Doors: 3:15 PM
Concert: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM PDT
Church of Scn of the Valley
11455 Burbank Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA 91601
•Concerts are hosted exclusively by The Athena Foundation for the Arts.
•Concerts are not a church event.
•The Community Auditorium is made available for rent to nonprofits and other charitable organizations.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email us. Thank you.
FREE Parking: Farmdale Avenue lot and street parking
Purchase tickets on Eventbrite here or scan the QR code at the door. Cash or Credit card payments by Zettle/Paypal also available. Questions? Please feel free to email us. Looking forward to an inspiring concert!
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