Trio Boyarski (Ben Baker – violin) entertain with food, drink and strings

Schubert: String Trio in B flat, D 581; Beethoven: String Trio in G major, Op. 9, no. 1; Dohnanyi: Serenade, Op.10; K. Boyarski: Mosaique Musicale

Trio Boyarsky: Ben Baker(violin), Konstantin Byarsky (viola), Amelia Jakobsson-Boyarsky (cello) – Capital Theatre Productions

Old St. Paul’s, Mulgrave Street

Friday, 20 August 2010, 5.30pm

About 90-100 people attended the concert; the rather odd hour prompted the organisers to sell drinks, sandwiches, muffins and chocolate bars before the concert and during the interval – an excellent idea.

While the printed programme gave plenty of information about the young performers (Ben is just 20),the works played were simply listed, with no programme notes, and not even the tempi markings of the movements.  Ben Baker gave spoken introductions to the items – very brief in the case of the Schubert, longer for the Beethoven including historical background.  The Dohnanyi and the work by the violist in the trio both received good introduction.

The concert opened with a truly lovely sound, right from the first chord of the Schubert, partly at least due to the warm wooden acoustic of the building.  There followed beautiful phrasing and shimmering tone throughout the trio.

Boyarsky’s rather small viola did not have the effulgent resonance of the violas in the NZSO, which were so highly praised by conductor Richard Gill in the Town Hall last night, but the playing, as of all three musicians, was of a very high standard indeed. It was a very enjoyable rendition.

The Beethoven began with a little more vibrato than I would have liked, in the dramatic opening chords.  But it grew into a very fine performance; assured, accurate playing. Each player had impressively fluent bowing action.

It was strange that there was little eye contact between the performers, but it didn’t seem to matter: nuances were faithfully observed.  The first two movements are sombre in mood, and if there was not always a depth of feeling apparent, this will come as the players mature.

The melodies the composer assigned to the different instruments were effectively given prominence, especially in the third movement.  In the quick finale there were beautifully graded dynamics, before the spirited ending.

Dohnanyi’s romantic Serenade contrasted with the previous two works, and the style of playing reflected this.  There was lovely tone, and good dynamic contrasts.  As in the other works, these talented young musicians were technically accomplished.

Boyarski’s work, dedicated to his wife, the cellist, made a slow build-up through low notes, followed by repeated, rapid passages leading to a slow melody, then through slow modulations to a violin melody with pizzicato accompaniment.  It traversed many moods.  There was extensive and interesting use of harmonics, and a robust cello solo.  It then livened up and became frenetic and discordant.

I wasn’t sure if ‘Mosaique’ in the title meant ‘to do with Moses’, or Mosaic as in a pattern of coloured tiles or gems – I suspect the latter.

Towards the end, the piece seemed to get bogged down, but it was an interesting and worthwhile work.

Although the addition of continuous seat cushions has made the pews in Old St. Paul’s somewhat more comfortable, the minimal depth of the seats (fine for Anglican services, where standing and kneeling are intrinsic) means they are not ideal for a full-length concert – at least, not for anyone over about five feet tall (or should that be 1.5 metres?)

Another matter to do with the audience rather than the players is the perennial one of coughing.  I would have thought that open-mouthed coughing at concerts would be a ‘no-no’ on health risk grounds as well as those of being disruptive of the music.  Cloth handkerchiefs (better as stifling tools than paper tissues) are not expensive, nor is the crook of one’s elbow.  If I can’t suppress a cough I normally endeavour to cough with a closed mouth.  It can be stressful, but it can be done, with greatly reduced volume the result.

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