Top local ensemble stunningly updates the Kiwi piano trio


There’s a delicious convergence of the arts on NZTrio’s new Lightbox CD, tantalisingly wrapped in the scuffed fluoro hues of Jim Speers’ English Electric.

Speers’ prize-winning sculpture is a lightbox, and such is the presence of this Rattle recording that, thanks to producer Wayne Laird and engineer Steve Garden, with a little bit of whimsy, you might well imagine your speakers as sources of sonic illumination.

This stunning follow-up to NZTrio’s first album of New Zealand music, 2005’s Spark, brings us up to date with seven works from the past decade.

Karlo Margetic’s title piece, which won the 2013 Sounz Contemporary Award, is a whirlwind of exhilaration. Moments of calm allow us to eavesdrop on fluctuating relationships between the players.

Drawing inspiration from the processes of glassmaking, Rachel Clement’s Shifting States is ingeniously tinted and textured, especially when the blurred opening of Millefiori breaks free into exultant, high-flying counterpoint.

You don’t need to see NZTrio perform Alex Taylor’s Burlesques Mécaniques to be drawn into these edgy dances. With the shortest being just a few seconds, every sound counts; Taylor has the ear and terrier-like tenacity to make the most of every note.

Although Gao Ping is now settled in Beijing, his Su Xie Si Ti was commissioned by NZTrio in 2009. Exoticism rules, especially when the musicians immerse themselves in the languorous orientalisms of Dui Wei.

Stapes takes us to the intense world of Samuel Holloway. This is restless, moody music, tethered and tended on the borderline; we hear thematic whispers, sounds that melt and deteriorate before our ears, chords vanishing into the distance.

Chris Gendall’s Intaglio does for printmaking what Clement did for glass. Three short pieces inspired by the connection between ink, plate and paper, are etched with the composer’s customary precision, sense of line and balance of sound and silence.

Claire Cowan’s Subtle Dances is the perfect closer. The ghosts of Piazzolla and Ravel hover over dancehall and ballroom, in an elegant nostalgia that suggests it might be possible to move forward into the past.


William Dart – New Zealand Herald, 23 May 2015

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