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NZ Trio’s “Cirrus” concert a luminous mix of classical and contemporary works

Reviewede by John Daly-Peoples

NZ Trio

Dramatic Skies 3: Cirrus

Auckland Concert Chamber

December 12

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The final concert of the year for the New Zealand Trio and one of the final classical concerts for Auckland was the last in their Dramatic Skies series. It was presented under Red Level in the Concert Chamber with a socially distanced audience of just  one hundred.

While the concert was titled Cirrus, the overcast skies that evening were more Nimbus but the concert featuring work from the early nineteenth century till the present brought welcome sounds into the hall to an  audience starved of concerts.

It was a typical NZ Trio concert combining classical compositions with more adventurous contemporary works challenging and for the players as well as the audience

Franz Schubert  was only fifteen when he wrote his “Sonatensatz in B flat Major”  and there is a youthful enthusiasm to the work but one can hear the composer searching for more complex structures and layered themes which hint at the greater works that were to follow.

Pianist Somi Kim provided the initial themes which were expanded on with violinist Amelia hall providing a soaring voice and cellist Ashley Brown a more sober and at times sombre accompaniment.

Kim’s playing could be seen as painting a landscape into which Hall and Brown interposed images of fleeting  clouds, and looming  storm clouds

Gillian Whitehead’s newly commissioned work “Ka maranga ngā kapua” follows on the cloudscape theme translating as  ‘the clouds will lift’ and was something of a metaphor coming at a time of hope in the lifting of Covid restrictions.

There are allusions to changing landscape and moods with shimmering sounds conveying various vistas along with whispers of bird song, heralding abating storms, clearing weather and a new day.

The other New Zealand work on the programme was Rachael Clement’s “Shifting States” which consisted of five short pieces  inspired by the processes of glassmaking – freezing, melting, vaporization, condensation and sublimation.

The work was full of tentative crisp  sounds which created a sense of shimmering flecks of light and colour with each of the instruments  conveying concepts of fragility, mystery and fluidity.

Playing the Schubert, the three instrumentalists had been focussed on collaboration, watching each other and responding to the musical connection. With Clement’s work they played their individual components in a more technical manner focussed on precision, assembling the various elements with the audience observing these various elements being dissected and combined.

In the final movement “sommerso (submerged)” Somi Kim leant into the piano to play directly on the strings, complementing the two other players. This movement was an elegant sound portrayal of the wonders of glass, seeing the swirls and flecks  of colour shimmering through solid or blown glass.

Andrzej Panufnik’s “Piano Trio Op. 1” was written when he  was a nineteen-year-old student but he  revised it from memory  in 1944 after it had been destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising. The work is something of a reflection on the tumultuous ten years between the the original and the revised version.

The opening movement was romantic leading to a more haunting second movement tinged with sadness. The final movement featured a manic dance theme with some particularly  insistent playing by Amelia Hall.

Throughout the work the violin and cello were engaged in a musical conversation which ranged from the nostalgic and contemplative to the aggressive and tempestuous.

Much of the time Somi Kim measured out the music with a methodical almost mechanical approach with the accompanying  strings alternatively pleading, terrified, witty and hectic.

The major work on the programme was Rachmaninov’s “Trio elegiaque No 2” written when he was nineteen  in response to the death of  Tchaikovsky. While it honours the composer it also celebrates the great romantic piano tradition with music rich in drama and emotion.

Somi Kim opened the first movement with a mournful exploration, displaying  some virtuoso playing filled with intensity and anguish. Amelia Hall and Ashley Brown wrapped a sympathetic accompaniment of  melancholic voices around her playing providing funereal decoration. The three players generated a raw passion in attempting to convey the sense of despair, wonder the inexpressible.

In the second movement Kim’s playing was initially elegiac but this soon became more frenetic aided by the dazzling performances of violin and cello with some inspired duos of piano and violin and cello and piano.

The finale featured  some  ferocious playing by Kim and some equally intense displays by Brown and Hall as they referenced Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique and offering a glimpse of joy amidst the pathos.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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