Zoom, the first of NZTrio’s 2016 Loft concerts did just that for a taut 70 minutes of music, with matching Zoom cocktails available at the downstairs bar for thirsty patrons. An enthusiastic audience enjoyed stylish playing as well as succinct and friendly spoken introductions to unfamiliar repertoire. Later, they could take part in some hip, up-to-the-second audience research, recording spontaneous responses to the evening on an array of VOXBOXes.
A Trio by American John Musto was a smooth aperitif, built around a virtuoso piano part that kept the able Sarah Watkins extremely busy. It was guilelessly eclectic, with a final, crowd-pleasing blend of boogie, tango and Gershwinesque peroration.
Wellington composer Chris Watson contributed a short piece with a long title — Schemata, Three Views of an Imaginary Object. These sonic snapshots instigated spirited, and occasionally feisty, musical discussion amongst the ensemble.
The inclusion of Epigrams, the final composition of 103-year-old Elliott Carter, was a typical NZTrio coup. Imagine a modernist, miniature and abstract Pictures at an Exhibition, each of its dozen character pieces expertly and exquisitely rendered. Highlights included the lurching physicality of the second piece and the wispy harmonic trail of the tenth; lyrical strings in the fourth and eighth revealed, in Watkins’ well-chosen words, major harmonies appearing like a halo out of nowhere.
After interval, an 1896 Trio by Schoenberg’s teacher Alexander Zemlinsky, revealed the highly-charged Late Romantic style that ultimately brought about twentieth-century modernism. Brahms admired the work, and it’s not hard to see why, especially when delivered with the passion accorded it tonight. However, one did miss the clarinet of the composer’s original scoring, its liquid, translucent tone the perfect foil for the fin-de-siecle richness around it.
William Dart, New Zealand Herald – 18 June 2016