You remember Amerigo Vespucci, don’t you? Sixteenth-century Italian explorer? Crossed the Atlantic four times? Showed that Brazil, the West Indies and all that were not the eastern reaches of Asia but rather the edge of a “New World”? Yeah, that Amerigo Vespucci.
The Amerigo Trio is named after him, the group’s co-founder, Glenn Dicterow, said, a nod to the group’s desire to explore the riches of the string trio repertoire and their international aspirations.
Also, “every other name had been taken,” the concertmaster emeritus of the New York Philharmonic said. “And we didn’t want to be ‘Vespucci.’ That was too Italian.”
The Amerigo Trio — Dicterow, violist Karen Dreyfus and cellist Inbal Segev — is set to make land in Jackson Hole this week for a free concert at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, surveying the centuries of music composed for the three stringed instruments, including one brand-spanking-new contribution.
The Amerigo Trio officially formed in 2009 after Dicterow, Dreyfus and Segev appeared together on a program at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine. Since then it has appeared at festivals and concerts throughout the country and has released a debut recording of serenades by Dohnanyi.
Each member boasts an impressive CV: Dicterow, who spent 34 years with the New York Philharmonic, is the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at the University of Southern California and has appeared on many recordings, both with the philharmonic and as a soloist, and has toured widely throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Dreyfus has worked with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Musicians from Marlboro and the philharmonic, and has collaborated with Yehudi Menuhin, Rudolph Serkin, Alexander Schneider, Leon Fleisher and Chick Corea. And Segev grew up in Israel, where she started playing cello at the age of 5. Invited by Isaac Stern to study in the U.S. when she was 16, she holds degrees from the Juilliard School and Yale University, and has presented world premieres of works by Lucas Richman, Dan Visconti and other living composers.
What sets a string trio apart from a quartet is, obviously, the absence of one violin, Dreyfus said. That means each of the three voices has to come through clearly and articulately.
“It’s more challenging [than a quartet], in a way,” she said.
There’s not nearly as much written for string trio as there is for string quartet — and it isn’t nearly as well known — but many of the greats have contributed to the canon: Beethoven wrote a half dozen trios, Haydn wrote one, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius … everyone from Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) right up to Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007).
But there’s never enough for thirsty musicians, so Amerigo is happy when a new piece comes into their lives, like Paul Chihara’s “Love in the Afternoon.”
“He’s a wonderful composer,” Dicterow said. “He’s significantly involved in film music and has written some great scores and also some substantial compositions.”
When Dicterow was with the New York Philharmonic, he said, Chihara always used to sit in the front row, often wearing “quirky” T-shirts.
“When I left the philharmonic, he was upset,” he said. But they have stayed in touch, with Chihara writing first a duet for violin and viola — “He loved Karen, too,” Dicterow said — and then, when he learned the two had become three, a trio titled “Love in the Afternoon,” which Amerigo premiered in March at the Westchester Chamber Music Society in Rye, New York. Sunday will mark just the second time it has been performed.
“It’s very unique,” Dicterow said of the trio, “with some adventurous music writing and some bossa nova themes going through the whole thing.”
“He loves to quote composers,” Dreyfus said. “One movement it will be Sibelius, one movement Beethoven.”
Amerigo visits Jackson Hole thanks to John Farrell, a vocalist who Dicterow and Dreyfus got to know through the Manhattan School of Music and who, after moving to Jackson, was missing his musical friends.
Dreyfus noted that this will not be her first visit to Jackson Hole: In 1989 she was a substitute in the viola section of the New York Philharmonic when it traveled en masse to the valley for a residency with the Grand Teton Music Festival.
“I was pregnant with our son,” she recalled, “and I remember sitting in the theater there, rehearsing, and my son Adam was kicking. … I was next to another pregnant violist, and our bellies were dancing around. I loved it.”
Read more about the Amerigo Trio and its members at AmerigoTrio.com. ￼