Reviews, News and Commentary

NZ Trio’s “Stratus” concert a delight

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Amalia Hall, Somi Kim and Ashley Brown

NZ Trio

Dramatic Skies; Stratus

Auckland Concert Chamber

April 18

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.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s