The Portland Piano Trio, a new chamber ensemble, is also the nucleus of something bigger. Its three musicians – pianist Anastasia Antonacos; violinist Tracey Jasas-Hardel; and cellist Benjamin Noyes – are also the faculty of 240 Strings, a not-for-profit educational organization, founded last April, to provide free music lessons to Portland children who cannot afford to pay for them.

The musicians’ goals, as they have explained them, are modest, but important. They are not trying to create the next generation of stars, or even professional musicians; rather they hope to provide the life skills inherent in making music, and to do some community outreach along the way.

To accomplish that, the organization needs a flagship ensemble good enough to inspire young players and their families. The Portland Piano Trio unquestionably has the goods. At First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday evening, the ensemble opened the church’s fall concert series – and raised some money for 240 Strings – with a program of trios by Haydn, Shostakovich and Amy Beach, all played with an enlivening tautness, flair and precision.

Haydn’s lively Piano Trio in C major (Hob. XV:27), which opened the program, quickly established the group’s strengths. Like many of Haydn’s trios (he wrote 45, and essentially created the form), it boasts a sparkling piano line and virtually nonstop, spirited dialogues and interplay between the keyboard and strings. It was executed dazzlingly here, with Antanacos producing a bright, crisp, fully transparent rendering of the piano line, and Jasas-Hardel and Noyes sometimes matching that brightness and sometimes countering it with a more-rounded – if not quite subdued – string tone.

Tempos were brisk, even in the central Andante, where the musicians took the spirit of the Italian tempo indication to heart: It means “at a walking pace,” although many musicians reflexively redefine it as “slow.” In the closing Presto, they made the most of Haydn’s sharp accenting, giving their phrasing an almost clipped sound at times, but also emphasizing the movement’s playful robustness.

Shostakovich’s single-movement Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor (Op. 8) was an odd but interesting choice for an introductory program. Shostakovich was a 16-year old student when he composed the work, and he never published it. After his death, it was reconstructed from several incomplete sources, with a new ending (the original has never been found) by Boris Tishchenko, one of Shostakovich’s students.

Early and comparatively unfamiliar though it is (the mature Trio No. 2 is performed much more frequently), the work has Shostakovich’s stylistic fingerprints all over it, starting with its bittersweet opening and its quick (if brief) leap into Soviet-style mechanistic rhythms. What Shostakovich developed later is the finesse that would have made this inventive exploration of melancholy themes sound less disjointed. Still, the work’s darkness proved a striking contrast to the cheerfulness of the Haydn.

The ensemble closed its program with another rarity, Beach’s Piano Trio in A major (Op. 150). Beach was among the first American female composers to achieve recognition in a musical world that was, in her day, an almost exclusively male preserve, most notably with her “Gaelic” Symphony, which had its premiere at a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert in 1896.

In truth, I always thought of Beach as mainly a fascinating footnote, the creator of a sprawling, diffuse symphony (although she is hardly alone in that, among symphonists of the time), as well as piano pieces and songs infused with a salon quality that makes them sound dated and inconsequential.

But the Portland Piano Trio’s account of this late chamber work – Beach composed it in 1939, when she was 71 – made me reconsider. Beach had not abandoned the grand, Romantic impulses that drive the symphony, but she had expanded her language considerably, embracing an Impressionistic chromaticism and an elegance of line that call to mind Debussy and Fauré, without really imitating either. There is an original spark here, and the musicians focused on it, playing the work with an energy and vividness that clarified its breadth and ambition.

Maybe it’s time to give the symphony another spin.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kozinn

Comments are not available on this story.