Cook Strait Trio in distinguished performances

Wellington Chamber Music Society

Turína: Piano trio no.2 in B minor, Op.76; Rebecca Clarke: Piano trio; Mendelssohn: Piano trio in D minor, Op.49

Cook Strait Trio – Blythe Press (violin), Amber Rainey (piano), Hugo Zanker (cello)

Ilott Theatre. Wellington Town Hall

Sunday, 22 August 2010, 3pm

It was a pleasure to hear this young trio again, albeit with a different cellist – this one from Canterbury, now playing in the Magdeburger Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany.  The other two are still studying, Press having completed his Bachelor’s degree at Graz, Austria, and now studying for a Master’s; Rainey is studying piano accompaniment at the Guildhall in London.

It was amazing that two piano trios made up of young players could be heard in Wellington in two days, the other being the Boyarsky Trio on Friday evening.

A confident start to the Turína work set the tone for the entire concert.  I was unfamiliar with this trio, but it had much charm in the first movement.  All three instruments were in complete accord, playing with full tone, and complete rhythmic and interpretative integrity.

The second movement featured vivace opening and closing, with a slow section in the middle.  Despite much repetition in the string parts, the piano never dominated.

The final movement was stirring and vigorous, and played with a panache which the solid technique of each of the players permitted.

Pianist Amber Rainey spoke before the Rebecca Clarke work, in which it was revealed that Hugo Zanker had only played with the other two musicians for a month.  She continued with an informative introduction to the Rebecca Clarke work, asserting that it should be played more often.  She described it as impressionistic and dissonant.  However, I didn’t entirely agree with her remark about the status of Clarke; what about Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann?

Two years ago we heard the Tawahi Trio play Rebecca Clarke in the WCMS Sunday afternoon series.  That time, it was Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale, which made a very favourable impression.  Since then, I have heard Clarke’s works on the radio a number of times, and I find that there is a Society recently created in her name, to promote her works.  Grove dismisses her as a violist, married to the pianist James Friskin.  (Probably only in the case of Schumann is a wife ever noted in writings about the husband!)

The first movement featured abrupt mood changes, and lower register passages for both strings, which produced lovely tone.  This was true in the second movement also, yielding a mysterious quality. In the third movement a sonorous piano solo was underpinned by delicate string accompaniment.  In this movement particularly, there were intriguing figures for all the instruments.  The middle section had a dreamy quality, then it was back to the sparkling opening.

The piece was interesting and skilful, and played by a group of talented young musicians, but I did not find it an endearing work.

Endearing and entrancing are, however, the words for Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor.   There was plenty of warmth and depth to this playing.  The opening agitato movement was not uneasy, like Clarke’s appassionato.

The soulful second movement was notable for the many changes in dynamics, always appropriate.  Listening to these performers, one would not guess their youth.  Amber Rainey has a compact, unfussy style of playing, and is always totally in accord with her colleagues.

The Scherzo and Finale exhibit Mendelssohn’s delightful treatment of his themes.  The latter’s ending was brilliant, especially from the piano.

This was thoroughly delectable playing of a wonderful work, completing a concert of distinguished, finely crafted performances.

All present would wish the trio well in their continuing studies.

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