Poinsett Piano Trio at Waikanae

Waikanae Music Society

The Poinsett Piano Trio: Deirdre Hutton (violin), Christopher Hutton (cello), David Gross (piano)

Beethoven: Piano Trio in E flat major, Op. 1, no. 1

Chopin: Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat major, Op. 61

Halvorsen: Passacaglia after Suite no. 7 in G minor by Handel

Brahms: Piano Trio in C major, Op. 87

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Chamber music is alive and well in Waikanae; the audience here was larger than it usually is at the Sunday afternoon series at the Ilott Theatre in Wellington.

Wellingtonian Christopher Hutton was making a welcome return, with his Trio, as part of a 14-centre tour of New Zealand, of which this was the last concert. The Trio is based at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. It is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist, statesman and physician from South Carolina, whose name is immortalised through his discovery of the Mexican plant with the large, red flowers, which is named after him.

Christopher Hutton is to be commended on his programme notes, which were excellent.

The opening Beethoven trio was played with a nice delicacy, suitable for the composer’s early work, which was very much a classical composition though (as the programme note said) he did not copy Mozart or Haydn, but had his own voice. Despite this, the piano was still the most important part of this trio.

The slow movement was enchanting and lyrical, while the scherzo was cheerful and straightforward. Precision, but also richness of tone marked the performance.

The solo piano work of Chopin was preceded by the pianist’s comments describing the work. Using the printed score, he gave a sympathetic, commanding and engrossing performance of this varied work.

Halvorsen’s reworking of Handel’s Passacaglia (since rearranged for violin and cello from Halvorsen’s violin and viola setting) proved to be thoroughly charming and attractive. The music was beautifully articulated by both players. They were in absolute accord. The writing became increasingly complex and difficult, but the performers were absolutely on top of it, and brought the piece off delightfully.

The Brahms trio was the major work on the programme, and provided an interesting contrast to the Beethoven work – here there was much work for the strings; the piano never dominated. Yet the ensemble playing was impeccable, with complete rapport between the players.

Brahms’s melodies are often full of pathos; this characteristic was conveyed with feeling and deep sonority.

The scherzo was particularly notable for the effects it featured, and for its lovely trio. The finale was full of contrasts, and was admirably played.

This was Brahms without barriers: there was nothing between the audience and the composer’s intentions.

The Trio played as an encore the scherzo from Shostakovich’s second piano trio. This was brilliant, but very different from the concert’s main fare; the trio was a component of the other programme the Poinsetts played around the country.

This is a very able Trio, and I hope they will tour again before too long.

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