Reviews, News and Commentary

NZTrio’s incredible Homeland 1 concert

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples


Homeland 1

Auckland Concert Chamber

March 6

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

With their first concert of the year the NZTrio provided a mixed programme of music spanning three centuries with the nineteenth century works by Dvorak, Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Piano Trio of 1941 and two twenty first century works by the American Daniel Temkin and a newly commissioned work by New Zealander Eve De Castro-Robinson.

The highlight of the evening was Eve De Castro-Robinson\s “’the willing air”, a  title taken from one of her mother’s poems and inspired by a visit to the Mingary Quiet Place, a small chapel in central Melbourne.

The six sections of the work seem to reference various notions of spirituality and moods associated with a range of places and environment of meditation.

 In the first section as in the following five there was an emphasis on the silences as much as the sounds which the trio created and the players attempted at times create the least intrusive music . There was also an innovative approach to their playing with cellist Ashley Brown initially stroking his bow across the spike of the cello and violinist Amalia Hall often feathering her bow across the strings while Somi Kim plucked and strummed the  piano strings as well as rapping  on the piano itself.

The second section was a bit more hectic with sounds which conveyed a sense of the body and mind on edge, tingling with sensations. The third section which opens with a bell ringing shifts the setting  to an eastern temple with some wistful sounds from  the violin. The section closed with Kim and Brown doing some low-level whistling creating the sense of a voice crying in the wilderness.

The dreamlike fourth section opened with the repetition of the meditative “Om” sound with the heavy chords of the piano leading to a trance-like state while the fifth section seemed to conjure up the idea of  far off or forgotten sounds with the  final movement ending in a ghostly sleep mood which then slips into silence with Brown again playing a sombre sound on the spike of his cello.

The concert opened with Dvorak’s second Piano Trio  and offers a full-scale, four-movement program building on the trios of composers such as  Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. It opened with sprawling, ambitious sounds full of  colourful, folk-inspired tunes.  Brown  and Hall responded to Kim’s opening with ruminations on the complex variations with some refined, exquisite playing. Then in the second movement with  its, spacious dimensions and tender lament  the trio created some  wistful, wandering melodies.

In the latter part of the work there were playful exchanges between the players as they explored the endless variations  of the work suffused with a slight air of mystery.

Dvorak had written the work partly as a response to the death of his newborm daughter which explains some of the sombre nature of the work and the other major work on the programme, Weinberg’s Piano Trio was also a reaction to a bleak time in the Polish composers life.

Weinberg had only recently arrived in Russia having  fled from Nazi Germany The opening Prelude is dramatic, almost inspiring, with Halls’s evocative playing soaring above the march-like sounds of the piano, the music becoming progressively starker and sparer before a final pizzicato. The second movement features turbulent  piano chords along with rasping violin and a caustic cello all contributing to a sense of unease and despair.

The players managed the dirge like third movement  with its dance of death, finishing with a passage conveying light and redemption. Then in the final movement they revealed an understanding of the struggles,  despair and desperation behind the composer’s single-mindedness impetus.

Also on the programme was Temkin’s “Five Bagatelles which were written as his responses to the music of contemporary composers who had inspired him.

There was the shimmering sounds and folk music suggesting Benjamin Britten, the slightly jazzy sounds with a rigorous tempo of Bela Bartok, the open, poetic spaces of Copland and then the hints of contemporary sounds and  techniques alluding to the music of Dutilleux and Ligeti.

Throughout the  concert the three players demonstrated incredible musicianship and an awareness of the way the music needs to be interpreted.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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