Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
Dramatic Skies; Stratus
Auckland Concert Chamber
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
The NZ Trios latest concert “Stratus” had works by composers spanning the last four centuries from Haydn through to two recent New Zealand compositions. As always with this finely tuned boutique group they are a thrill to watch and a delight to hear.
The first work on the programme was Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Trio élégiaque No. 1 In G Minor which was one of his first compositions and the one he first performed at a public concert. It is a work which combines both his acknowledgement of musical history with nods to Tchaikovsky as well as showing his desire to experiment.
The work opens with the violin and cello slowly playing a repetitive theme which grows in intensity before the piano enters with the dominant theme which is then taken through a number of variations ending in a form of funeral march.
The musical motif changes in mood as the variations pass from one instrument to the other and with each new sequence the players seem to display a sense of urgency, finding a new way in expressing emotion with violinist Amalia Hall being particularly expressive.
The group played with a careful sensitivity as though each of the variations was a precious element.
They played the Haydn “Piano Trio in a restrained manner, dealing elegantly with the tonal changes which create a range of different moods and atmospheres. In the final movement they were particularly animated where they played like a gypsy band bringing out the joy of the Hungarian dances as well as the technical wizardry of combining the gypsy melody with the composer’s refined musicality.
Josef Suk’s “Elegie in D Flat Major” is grounded in Czech nationalism and even has references to the music of Dvorak. The trio played the gentle sequences as well as the dramatic passages with precision revealing the well-crafted nature of the work.
The other classical work on the programme was Ernest Chausson’s Piano Trio in G minor
This emotionally charged work opened with a sombre motif that was repeated in other movements merging contrasting themes full of colour and gentle lyricism. The trio manged to clearly articulate the contrasting moods of tenderness, introspection, melancholia and the unexpected.
Throughout the work the rich and virtuosic piano playing of Somi Kim was essential in providing the rich texture and the driving momentum which culminates in the dramatic descent into the final dark elegiac conclusion.
The intensity of the music was mirrored in the way the players interacted, very much aware of their linked roles giving the work its dramatic, almost operatic dimension.
The two shorter New Zealand works on the programme Claire Cowan’s “Ultra Violet” and Reuben De Lautours’ “An Auscultation of Water” had some similarities as both were attempts to investigate the properties of the physical world, Cowans into light and De Lautours into water.
”Ultra Violet” employs a serene minimalism with repetitions and slow transformations which captures the essence of light, the throb and pulse of the waves which are the source of both light and sound. Along with this is also an eerie otherworldly sound of another dimension in which there is a shimmering and floating conveys a sense of exploration as though seeing through the eyes of the birds and insects which are able to see in the ultraviolet spectrum.
With “An Auscultation of Water” the three players seemed to be regarding their instruments as pieces of scientific apparatus investigating the nature of water. Each of the players employed novel techniques in this investigation from Somi Kim’s vigorous trilling to Ashley Brown extracting eerie sounds from his cello with rapid bowing, and abrupt transitions .
The trio conveyed the sounds and appearances of water – rain drops, shimmering surfaces, ripples, waves and the thunderous storm.