Review by: Tony Ryan
NZTrio – Weave
The Piano, Christchurch, 21 June 2018
Reviewed by Tony Ryan
NZTrio, in a period of transition with two guest players joining its founding cellist, Ashley Brown, sounded for all the world as if they’d been playing together for years, so totally in tune with one another’s interpretive approach and style were they. While each demonstrated considerable character and individuality, their interplay and musical conversation was simply thrilling in its unity, commitment and vitality.
In the first part of the programme, the hypnotic rhythms of Philip Glass’s Head On and Australian, Stuart Greenbaum’s stylistically eclectic and ultimately less convincing The Year Without a Summer, framed Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1. And from the outset of this major work, NZTrio’s exceptional quality shone. Ashley Brown’s opening statement of the first movement’s main theme was so full of personality and subtle beauty that, as soon as I got home, wondering why this passage had never struck me before, I rushed to my CD recording featuring cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, to find that even he couldn’t match the expressive impact of Brown’s playing.
As the movement progressed it was evident that the other members of the trio were almost equally expressive and convincingly characterful. Here indeed is an ensemble that truly has something of its own to bring to an oft-played classical masterpiece. What a pity more of Christchurch’s music devotees weren’t there to experience this performance. The opening of the second movement brought a magical introductory solo from pianist Somi Kim in the style of the composer’s Songs Without Words, followed by a lovingly-phrased restatement from violinist Natalie Lin in harmony with Brown’s enduringly opulent cello line, all played with an overwhelming rapture such as we rarely encounter.
Dorothy Buchanan’s 1980 Trio Sound, which opened the second part of the programme, is the other work that lingers in the memory. Buchanan is a master of motif development and, if her structure maintained an even keel rather than having an overarching sense of direction leading to any real climax or denouement, her sound world is consistently captivating, with engaging sonorities throughout the work and some gorgeous harmonies, especially near the end.
Finally, Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1 was played with all the love and attention to detail that was evident throughout the programme, and confirmed NZTrio’s position as an ensemble of world-class excellence.
Tony Ryan – CHCH Press, June 2018