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Lunch with Nikau Trio at St Andrew’s

By , 12/03/2010

Trio Sonata in C minor (Quantz); Petit Concert (Edwin Carr), Assobio a Jato (Villa Lobos); ‘London’ trio No 1 in C (Haydn); Trio (Graham Powning)

The Nikau Trio: Karen Batten (flute), Madeline Sakofsky (oboe), Margaret Goldberg (cello)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace 

Friday 10 March 2010

A series such as this of essentially small-scale music (i.e. chamber music) can afford to deviate from the more narrow field of chamber music – mainly the string quartet and the piano trio, with woodwind add-ons – that the main promoters of chamber music feel obliged to pursue.

So far there’s been concerts by:

            a quartet playing Klezmer (Yiddish) music,

            a jazz piano trio,

            a piano quartet,

            a piano solo,

            a jazz guitar quartet,

            an octet of strings and winds,

            the SMP Ensemble playing 20th century music from New Zealand and elsewhere involving piano and other keyboards, string quartet and double bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, horn, percussion, plus a small vocal ensemble.

 

Still to come, through the weekend and the coming week:

            an early music of soprano Pepe Becker and ensemble (Friday evening),

            another string quartet

            a solo violin – Martin Riseley playing all 24 Paganini Caprices,

            another octet mixing stings and winds,

            a woodwind quartet,

            a string trio playing tangos,

            a clarinet quintet playing both the Mozart and Brahms quintets,

            Greg Squires’s early music group, Scaramuccia,

            two singers in a Mahler song cycle with piano,

            and a tenor singing a mixture of Vivaldi arias and art songs.

Friday’s concert may have been an unexpected delight for, while this lightish instrumental combination might have suggested small charming pieces, there was more to it than that.

It certainly opened with a predictably slight piece by the brilliant flutist, J J Quantz, who worked in the court of Frederick the Great, but it was played without the touch of daring or insouciance that can transform such music. Quantz wrote hundreds of flute sonatas, solo flute sonatas, trio sonatas and flute and other concertos: his music is agreeable. The opening Andante moderato lacked much spark, the following Allegro was more lively, with clean playing; the Larghetto, meditative but sober and the final Vivace was the expected quick piece: all played with excellent ensemble and attention to detail.

Edwin Carr’s Petit Concert (Concert, in French, means simply ‘concerto’, not necessarily featuring a solo instrument), was French in tone and demonstrated an affinity for the devices and patterns that French composers through the early 20th century cultivated. I enjoyed it; there was pleasing three-part harmony, an echoing of 18th century style by the solo cello in the second movement; each instrument carried its own distinct tune in the little Menuet, in skilled counterpoint, and finally a ‘Tarantelle’, with a gigue rather than a tarantella rhythm.

The Villa Lobos piece, Assobio a Jato, meaning ‘The Jet Whistle’ – for the composer likened the sound obtained to the scream of a jet aeroplane – for flute and cello, consisted of three very different movements, not too obviously Brazilian, the last including the whistle which Karen Battle carried off skilfully. On a website there’s a comment by the American composer, Persichetti, that the piece falls in the category of an artisan rather than an artist’s work. That may be, but it’s short and inoffensive.

Next, the Haydn Trio, written during the second of his prolonged visits to London in 1794/95, was rather more substantial than the Quantz of around a half century earlier. The two wind instruments had most of the fun while the cello part was little more than a basso continuo. But the players invested it all with considerable charm.

The most delightful piece in the programme was a Trio by Australian flutist Graham Prowning, revealed as a composer of real accomplishment, and musical imagination. Each movement had distinct individuality, handled tunes that seemed to spring from a real musical inspiration rather than effortful and forgettable. Most infections was the waltz which, while making flippant allusions to the great waltz composers, went its own way in rhythm and melody, evolving surreptitiously into the March finale.

It served to bring the concert to a particularly happy end, for the few dozen who were there.

 

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