2009 is a year of milestones for classical music and Sydney-based piano trio TRIOZ has formed the program of its second national tour for this year around a celebration of these anniversaries: 200 years since the death of Haydn, 200 years since the birth of Mendelssohn and 80 years since the birth of Peter Sculthorpe.
The trio’s pianist, Kathryn Selby, introduced the concert on Wednesday night by talking about the program,which traces the development of the piano trio from salon music composed to be played amongst friends and to showcase the keyboard player, to the more serious, ‘professional’ piano trio that emerged in the 19th century. It was really valuable to hear the musicians discussing the music they were about to play and it made me think that perhaps this is something that could be done more often, particularly in the more intimate context of a chamber music concert.
Selby and her fellow musicians (violinist Niki Vasilakis and cellist Emma-Jane Murphy) opened the concert with Haydn’s Piano Trio in G minor, one of the composer’s later keyboard trios. As Selby had explained, the work is more like a piano sonata with violin and cello accompaniment, with the piano taking the solo part and being supported by the strings. In the first movement, Selby seemed to be lingering in the background a little rather than allowing her melodies to come out above the accompaniment. However, by the time the group reached the graceful second movement, the balance between parts was restored and the piano shone in all its glory. The quality of ensemble playing that eventually emerged from this combination of three individually acclaimed musicians was superb.
Haydn’s trio was followed by another in G minor: Dvorák’s Op. 26, a work which demonstrates a much more equal relationship between the three instruments than that in the Haydn. Some brief but beautiful cello solos brought to mind the composer’s Cello Concerto in B minor and were played exquisitely by Murphy, whose instrument has a wonderfully resonant sound.
The second half of the concert included Sculthorpe’s Night Song, a work for piano trio that was originally part of a composition called Love 200 for rock band and orchestra. Opening with a poignant lament in the high register of the cello,the mournful songlike piece was played with great sensitivity and respect by the trio.
TRIOZ’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor was a brilliant finale to the concert. Full of Romantic, overflowing energy with a dark underside, this work showed the ensemble at their best. The furious intensity of the piano in the last movement and the poignant lyricism created by the ensemble in the second movement moved audience members to tears, and finished the performance on a high note despite the work’s weighty minor mood.
It is not often that a small chamber ensemble has the chance to take a concert series on national tour in Australia, but I can see why this rare opportunity has been given to TRIOZ. They have been justly described as this country’s premier piano trio and I hope that classical music lovers in Melbourne will continue to have the privilege of hearing their music.
Selby & friends present
TRIOZ National Concert Series
Venue: Melba Hall, University of Melbourne
Dates: Wednesday 13 May at 8pm
Tickets: $55, Concession $50, Student $40.
Bookings: 02 9969 7039 or online at www.selbyandfriends.com.au