Delights and disappointments from the Poinsett Trio

Wellington Chamber Music Trust

Mozart: Trio in C, K.548 (allegro; andante cantabile; allegro)

Brahms: Trio in C minor, Op.101 (allegro energico; presto non assai; andante grazioso; allegro)

Fauré: Piano Trio in D minor, Op.120 (allegro ma non troppo; andantino; finale: allegro vivo)

Paul Schoenfield: Café Music (allegro; andante moderato; presto)

Poinsett Trio (David Cross, piano; Deirdre Hutton, violin; Christopher Hutton, cello)

Ilott Theatre

Sunday, 19 May 2013

(Reviewer’s note: It is now known that Deirdre Hutton’s violin had, before the concert on Sunday 19 May at the Ilott Theatre, developed quite a long seam opening.  This led to major problems with sound production.  The matter could not be fixed prior to the concert.

Apparently they tried to get hold of an Auckland violin maker prior to the concert, who was visiting Wellington, but didn’t succeed, as she had already left.  She’s now repaired the instrument. – R.C.  25th May)

It is always good to welcome back Wellington musicians studying or working overseas.  This is the case with cellist Christopher Hutton.

However, overall I found this concert disappointing, given the very high standard always demonstrated in the Wellington Chamber Music Trust series.  At the beginning of the Mozart sonata the violin was a little off pitch; this recurred at various times throughout the concert.  The beautiful piano part was for the most part beautifully played with commendable delicacy of touch, but it rather over-awed the strings.  Yes, the piano had the principal part in Mozart’s early chamber works, but this was not an early work.  Maybe it was the dry acoustic, but I found the violin tone harsh; the cello I could not hear much from through most of the work.  I liked the instrument’s sound when I could hear it.

In the Brahms trio, the balance was more equitable between the piano and the strings.  It opened with a typical Brahms melody, after a lively introduction.  Better tone and intonation emerged from the violin.

The second movement was unusual for the use of mutes throughout by the strings – even when pizzicato was being played.  The movement was fast, soft, and had a gentle, rollicking character, due to the rhythm, and the muted pizzicato.

The lovely opening string duet of the slow third movement was echoed in the piano solo that followed; this was the pattern throughout the movement. This back and forth character gave interest and clarity to the writing and the performance.  Again, there was some harshness of tone from the violin.  The most extended of the piano solos had rather the features of a salon piece for piano.

The finale was agitated, bur mellifluous melodies were passed from the strings to the piano and back again.  However, there were too many flaws in this performance to allow the music to carry me away, although the ensemble was more cohesive in this work.

The Fauré trio was heard in last year’s Sunday afternoon series, just over one year ago, with a trio of young New Zealanders studying overseas.  Its character demands subtlety, and the Poinsetts demonstrated it, and some élan showed through, despite occasional waywardness of the violin’s intonation.

The charming song-like opening melody of the andantino was most pleasing.  However, the pianist did not vary his dynamics as much as did the string players.  An impassioned duet for cello and violin was very pleasing.  Ensemble and tone were improved.

The fast finale found once again that tuning was not always on the spot.  The movement featured a lively and ingratiating piano part.  As the programme note said, ‘the music is restrained, finely crafted, and entirely charming.’

Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music was exactly that, and didn’t ‘grab’ me as a component of a chamber music concert, being full of jazz rhythmic clichés, though written as recently as 1986; for example, the second movement’s off-beat ‘swing’ (in the traditional slow middle movement of chamber trios, despite the programme notes saying ‘traditional slow-fast-slow’).  The final presto was a dizzy, discordant dance taken at a cracking pace, and was a bit more adventurous.  It was rhythmically lively, but that rhythm did not contain much variety.

The violinist played the jazz style very well, as did the pianist.  All in all, this was a skilled performance – even if somewhat lightweight, nevertheless skill was required in its playing.

As an encore, the trio played the first movement of Dvořák’s ‘Dumky’ Trio, which was a component of the other programme they were presenting in their 13 concerts around New Zealand.  The delightful work was given a crisp introduction and a good rendering of the jolly, fast main theme that alternates with elements from the introduction.  There was plenty of emphasis on important notes, and a build up to each entry of the theme, making it a truly dance-like performance to end the concert.


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