Raphael Trio

Biography
Naoko Tanaka, violin
Susan Salm, cello
Daniel Epstein, piano

In November of 1975, the newly-formed Raphael Trio made “a most auspicious debut” (The New York Times) at Carnegie Hall as winners of the Concert Artists Guild Award. They have since been presented regularly in the leading concert halls of the United States and Europe, appearing in London, Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, Washington DC, San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston and New York.

In celebration of their 25th Anniversary, they performed the complete Beethoven trios in cycles in Washington DC (Phillips Collection), Vermont (Marlboro College), and in gala appearances in New York at the Kosciusko Foundation. These performances were broadcast by WNYC and Performance Today, NPR’s live broadcast concert series.

In addition to their commitment to presenting the standard repertoire as well as the lesser-known works by the great composers, the Raphael Trio maintain an active role in commissioning, performing and recording works written for them by contemporary composers. For three seasons they were Artists-in-Residence at the Manhattan School of Music and annually offer a celebratory series at Washington’s Phillips Collection. Haydn is the focus of a five-concert series in 2009.

Discography

Dvorak:

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Piano Trios Nos. 1&2

Raphael Trio, ensemble/primary artist

Release Date: 1997

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Beethoven:

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Kakadu Variations; Allegretoo in B Flat; Trio in E Flat

Raphael Trio, ensemble/primary artist

Release Date: 1992

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Reviews

“Listening to the Raphael Trio and guest violist Cynthia Phelps tear into Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G Minor at Sunday’s  Philips Collection recital, it was difficult to imagine Brahms played with more guts or irrepressible vigor. Cellist Susan Salm’s attacks were as bold and her tone as sinewy and resinous as they had been throughout this all-Brahms program. Violinist Andy Simionescu’s playing, too, had all the passion Brahms requires, allied to a sweetly singing tone, and Phelps provided a handsomely dark and forthright sound that contrasted well with her colleagues. Pianist Daniel Epstein was no less involving, though he drew the ear more with a supple touch and a careful balancing of inner voices.”

– Joe Banno, Washingtonpost “Raphael Trio’s Bold Brahms at the Phillips”, Mar 9, 2004

“Then came the Mendelssohn Trio in C Minor, Op. 66, and everything changed. Beginning emotionally with tension and passion, pianist Epstein ripped out liquid arpeggios and strong chords. Salm and Simionescu played with sweetness, longing and desire. Most exquisite was second movement, with its slow hymnlike theme. The trio sustained this poignant lyricism until the very end, a painfully beautiful diminuendo.”

– Helen York, Bangor Daily News “Raphael Trio Worth Braving The Elements”, Feb 23, 2004

“Listening to the Raphael Trio play chamber music is a lot like reading a really engrossing book. Reality drops away for a while, and when you come to the end, it takes a moment to remember what day of the week it is… The trio has been together for 30 years, and it shows in their ensemble instincts. They know each other’s minds and play with cohesive interpretation of the music.”

“The program’s first half was filled by Franz Schubert’s enormous ‘Piano Trio in B Flat Major, Op. 99.’ D898. Each musician brought an appropriate vocal sensibility to Schubert’s expressive melodic passages, playing with a full palate of colors and tremendous energy. Even the simplest patterns of repeated notes were played with direction, shape and purpose.”

“The program ended with Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Trio in C Minor. Op. 66.” Although the four-movement piece was written just 18 years after Schubert’s death, it speaks of a different era. This is unabashedly Romantic music and the players approached it as such. Throughout the Mendelssohn, the players created drama by pushing the envelope as they reached for extremes in dynamics and dug into robust articulations. This was balanced by absolutely elegant legato playing and ‘Andante’ movement played with the tenderness of a love song. They used rubato and tenuto to create flowing emphatic statements. This was not sloppy emotionalism but rather a matter of speaking the language of the music. The occasional grins that passed from player to player added to the performance’s excitement.”

– Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Chamber Music An Energetic Journey with Raphael Trio”, Apr 12, 2005

Reviews

“In the ‘Ghost’ trio, the expressive strengths of each player’s approach, the subtle dynamic shadings and the taut way the performance gelled made this a reading which was both stylistically sure and, for the listener, enlivening.”

The Daily Telegraph

“All three players are fine musicians, and after this long a period together they have produced a superb working ensemble.”

Woodstock Times

“With its restrained passion and lovely interplay, this was an engrossing three-quarters of an hour of music.”

Woodstock Times

“The spiritual complexity and emotional richness of their playing were held in a perfect balance.”

Chamber Music Bern

“It’s just the sort of spirit one wants in chamber music, and in Dvorak’s in particular.”

Stereo Review

“The Raphael exhibited a synergy that resulted in a solid sounding and musically sensitive performance.”

The Virginia Gazette

Audio Samples

Photos

Photo credit: Christian Steiner