From storming tsunami to murmuring breezes on the turn of a phrase

The evening set off with the familiar — Beethoven’s Ghost Trio.

The central Largo, which gives the piece its nickname, was atmospherically laid out around the remarkable piano of Somi Kim. However, I suspect it was the exciting outer movements that caused the adrenalin to rush, with the musicians veering from storming tsunami to murmuring breezes on the turn of a phrase.

Closing the evening, a lush 1896 trio by Alexander Zemlinsky was given a virtuoso workout. This, too, engaged the audience, even if Amalia Hall’s elegant violin couldn’t quite catch the sweet-and-sour klezmer of the composer’s original clarinet.

On the contemporary side, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s A Fast Stomp took us from Bartok to boogie-woogie in a jittery, runaway scherzo.

Isang Yun’s 1976 Piano Trio proved a revelation and was, for me, the highlight of the evening. This Korean composer wrote demanding music; indeed, he seems staunchly modernist in times when composers are not afraid to woo ears. Yet, live, how could one not be spellbound by the delicacy of Hall and Ashley Brown’s feathery exchanges, or Kim, in an elegant lame jumpsuit, leaning over her piano and unlocking a new world of sonic magic?

NZTrio has always stood up for our local composers. Tonight, Sarah Ballard’s Prema Lahari subtly explored the spiritual world of Indian culture. The players were accompanied by the meditative drone of taped tanpura, and the work ended with a recorded Sanskrit chant, sung against the chimes of the players’ temple bells.

It was a beautiful miniature with much to savour, from the yearning of the strings’ raga-like melodies to Kim’s pearly keyboard runs evoking the cascading notes of the Indian sitar.

NZ Herald article here
William Dart, NZ Herald

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