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InterFusions: passionate and intelligent playing by the NZ Trio

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

NZ Trio, InterFusions

Auckland Concert Chamber

October 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

It is hard to imagine the shock, surprise or elation of audiences in the past confronted by new music. We know of the riot which happened  on the first night of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring  and  the bafflement on encountering John Cage’s 4”33” of silence. But there have been other moments during the classical periods with composers, shocking audiences with music which we now see as mainstream. Several of the works of Beethoven  shocked audiences but led to major shifts of perception with his innovative symphonies and chamber works.

NZ Trio in their latest concert “Interfusions” recreated one of those moments playing Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C Minor, a work which his teacher Joseph Haydn had advised against publishing. Compared with the traditional trios of Haydn and Mozart this broke with the traditional model, changing the nature of the form for ever.

With this work he  added a movement to the normal three movement form  and gave the strings, notably the cello, a  more independent role.

The work opened in an ominous  mood which changed after few bars with a more hopeful second theme. Throughout the work the instruments each had an opportunity for a virtuoso display and the various  motifs  were passed between the instruments building tension and moods swing from they were able to create emotion al moods from the soothing through to the feverish and enigmatic. The tumultuous to the carefree. There was little of the nuanced style of a Haydn trio with more drama and emotional, qualities that the three players interpreted with vigour.

While cellist Ashley Brown played much of the time with  a precise  earnestness he occasionally lapsed into a more languorous style and violinist Amalia Hall played with a breath-taking savagery.

Pianist  Somi Kim  who provided the solid base for the more flamboyant strings  had some passages where she displayed dexterous skills with some delightful trills.

Also on the programme was  Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor, one of the great examples of modern of piano trios. Finished at the outbreak of World War I there are premonitions of the coming war the harsh, often discordant music in the latter part of the work.

It is a work of enormous strength and the four movements are elaborately constructed with musical themes drawn from a variety of sources -Basque folk music Malaysian and nineteenth century classical.

It  is technically demanding of the players with each  of the instrument requiring virtuoso displays. All three gave it a passionate and thoroughly convincing performance, creating emotional moods from the soothing through to the feverish and enigmatic. At times the players gave it a rich orchestral sound  as they played multiple, overlapping themes and Somi Kim’s initial playing which was whimsical and dreamy then flowed into some  harsh, but never uncontrolled sounds.

There were three shorter works on the programme as well – Christos Hatzis’ Constantinople: Old Photographs, Dinuk Wijeratne’s Love Triangle and Salina Fisher’s Kintsugi

Hatzis’ work which draws on his Greek heritage is filled with music which touches on remembering and romancing deriving   its sounds from gospel, Sufi and mediaeval chants, along with Greek folksong. The work opened with Somi Kim playing an achingly lovely passage, filled with longing which gradually morphed, along with the other instruments into a Piazzolla style with many tango rhythms  such that the work could more aptly be titled “Buenos Aires”.

Parts of the work became quite frenzied which then turned into slow languid passages before returning to more passionate tangos where Hall and Brown engaged in a ferocious  bowing competition. Throughout there was a sense of photographic images being examined some blurred, some ripped, some black and white, some filled with colour as well as ancient sepia toned ones

Playing the Wijeratne’s work derived from the melodies of the Middle East and the rhythms of classical Indian music the trio produced some plaintive Middle eastern sounds with  Ashley Brown making his cello sound like an oud

The trio also played a  new commission from Salina Fisher. The innovative  work Kintsugi, relates to the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and dusting the new work with gold. The music focussed on the gaps and fragments highlighting the fragility of the process as the piece was slowly assembled. While the violin and cello seemed to describe the colours, textures and contours of the bowl or vase the  the piano picked out the seams of the material bonding the broken shards and the shimmering gold.

While describing the physical changes in the pottery the work with its  delicate, brittle sounds acted as a metaphor for the ability of humans to mend broken bodies and minds.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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