Lotta Studio/Yale Schwarzman Center

The Darshan Trio — two of whom are Yale graduates — performed on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Schwarzman Center.

The group’s name is inspired by the Sanskrit word related to sight and the vision of beholding a sacred object. Two of the trio’s members, Vijay Gupta MUS ’07 and Dominic Cheli MUS ’16, are graduates of the Yale School of Music. During their performance, Gupta played the violin, Cheli the piano and Yoshika Masuda the cello. Their performance was a unique blend of contemporary and classical pieces.

“I thought it was really innovative compared to most classical music these days,” said attendee Alex Moore ’26. “I liked the presentation and the group had good chemistry.”

The Darshan Trio’s performance at the Schwarzman Center was split into four parts, each a unique blend of compositions. The show opened with a quote from “Book of Hours” by Rainer Maria Rilke, saying, “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

The first movement was a blend of contemporary and classic pieces. The opening song was Saans — or “Breath” —- by Reena Esmail. The composition, released in 2017, was delicate and emotional. It was accompanied by soft purple lighting, which matched the tone of the piece. This song then segued into “Piano Trio no.1”, first  movement, by Felix Mendelssohn. The 1839 composition was energetic and full-bodied, with red, warm-toned lighting matching the song. If Saans was the wind of a breath, this piece was the wind of a storm.

The second part of the performance was a blend of three songs. The first was called Mozart-adagio, a 1997 composition by Arvo Pärt. This emotionally subdued piece was performed in complete darkness, the only lighting coming from the soft glow of the performer’s tablets. The lighting then changed to soft warm tones for the 1811 Piano Trio “Archduke,” third movement, by Ludwig van Beethoven. This song was smooth and full of life. The last piece of the performance was “Buresca II”. The 1985 composition by Pēteris Vasks was energetic and lively, fittingly accompanied by magenta lighting. 

“It was very touching,” said attendee Serena Cheng ’24. “Especially how each one was tied to a story.”

The final blend of songs included only two composers: Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. 

This medley included a distinct story-telling aspect, as dictated by the projected quotes from Brahms and the diaries of Schumann and his wife Clara. 

The third act opened with a quote by Schumann to his wife from 1838 saying, “We will lead a life of poetry and blossom, and we will play and compose together like angels and bring gladness to mankind.” This quote introduced the first Schumann song — Kinderszenen, “Dreaming” — which then blended into another work in the same 1848 Kinderszenen series: “The Poet Speaks.” 

These first two songs featured a lighter, gentler tone, which was appropriate considering the musician was inspired to compose them after watching his children play outside.

The last two pieces of the third act were both by Brahms. The trio played the third and fourth movements of the 1854 Piano Trio No. 1.

The third act started with delicate notes, then transitioned to a more somber tone — fitting with Clara’s mourning of her husband — and ended with a piece that was a passionate celebration of life. The third act was the musical embodiment of the story of Schumann and Brahms. The two composers were good friends, Brahms being mentored by Schumann and — supposedly — falling in love with his daughter Clara. 

The trio took time at the end of their performance to celebrate Clara Schumann, who was a skilled composer but unable to express her love for music due to societal norms. The fourth performance of Clara Schumann’s 1846 Piano Trio — the third movement — was accompanied by a quote from Clara saying, “My imagination can picture fairer happiness than to continue living for art.” 

“I loved their inclusion and celebration of Clara Schumann’s work,” said Alliese Bonner ’27 who attended the event. “She’s probably the most famous female composer.”

The fourth piece was loving but somber, much like the composer’s relationship with music.

The trio came back out on stage after a lengthy applause for an encore performance. The room was filled with bright pink lighting as they played the 2019 Piano Trio, Scherzo, by Reena Esmail. The energetic song was filled with staccato and falsetto notes, creating a fairy-like atmosphere that ended the trio’s performance on a joyful note.

The trio has only been playing as a group since the pandemic but each member of the trio also boasts individual claims to fame. 

Cheli has performed nationally with orchestras including the San Diego Symphony, Colburn Orchestra and Adrian Symphony. He has played at the Mostly Mozart and Ravinia Festival and is scheduled to make his fourth appearance at Carnegie Hall.

Masuda is an internationally renowned cellist and was awarded the YAMAHA Music Foundation of Europe String Award. He has worked with several celebrated composers and musicians, including Leonard Cohen and David Geringas. He was also newly appointed to the role of Assistant Professor of Cello and Director of String Studies at the Chapman University Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music. 

Gupta played for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 12 years as a member of the first violin section. He has worked with groups like the Kronos Quartet and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. 

Not only is each member of the trio an acclaimed musician, but all of them are also social justice advocates. 

Gupta is the founder and Artistic Director of Street Symphony, which is an organization that provides musical experiences for people recovering from addiction, homelessness and incarceration in the Los Angeles area. Cheli curates programs for and performs at schools and retirement homes in his surrounding community. Masuda is dedicated to teaching music to the next generation of artists, as exemplified by his history as a professor at California Lutheran University and his current position at Chapman University. 

For all of their pieces, the Darshan Trio performed with passion and vigor. Their energy was not only noticeable through the music they were playing, but also through their body language and facial expressions. Gupta played with so much liveliness that a few strings on his bow even snapped off during the performance. 

Reena Esmail MUS ’11 MUS ’14 MUS ’18 — the composer of two of the Trio’s performances — is a graduate of the Yale School of Music.

Correction, Feb. 12: This article has been updated to reflect that Robert is Clara’s husband, not her dad.

Luciana Varkevisser covers theater and performances. She is a freshman in Saybrook College planning on majoring in history and psychology.