Braid, the third of NZTrio’s popular Loft concerts for the year, focused on women composers, well timed for Suffrage 125 celebrations.
Five works, spanning a century-and-a-half, were persuasively delivered by an impressive line-up, with founding cellist Ashley Brown joined by violinist Benjamin Baker and pianist Stephen De Pledge.
Two older Kiwi commissions were revisited, reminding us of NZTrio’s untiring support and nurture of the local. Rachel Clement’s sabbia was a short, tangy prelude to the evening, energised by deft teamwork. Victoria Kelly’s more substantial Sono effectively pitted strings against piano, contrasting consonance and dissonance, foreground and background.
A trans-Tasman import, Spirit and the Maiden by Elena Kats-Chernin, was a decided let-down. The gusto of its performance did not, alas, disguise the triteness of the material, burdened by too many tired, banal sequences and too much treading of water in minimalist ponds.
Composers Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn introduced gender politics, with two full-scale piano trios raising the issue of why these women have been overshadowed by the men in their lives — a husband in Schumann’s case, a brother in Mendelssohn’s.
The programme notes hailed Schumann’s trio as a masterpiece. It is not, although the exquisite braid of its outer movements, beautifully delineated in this performance, revealed a rare sensitivity and craft, only wanting that final dash of fire.
Closing the concert, De Pledge introduced Mendelssohn with such passion that we were well prepared for the demonic rush of its opening Allegro molto. This is a score that jolts and unsettles, unlike the sometimes over-homogenised music of her brother, Felix.
The three men had immense and obvious fun with it, enjoying the flowering textures of its Andante and transforming the finale with almost Hungarian zest.
What: NZTrio, Braid
Where: Loft at Q Theatre
Reviewed by: William Dart, NZ Herald