Eggner Trio and Amihai Grosz win all hearts

Chamber Music New Zealand presents:

Mozart Piano Quartet No 2 in E flat K493
Schumann Piano Trio No 3 in G minor Opus 110
Anthony Ritchie Oppositions
Dvořák Piano Quartet No 2 in E flat Opus 87

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Sunday 14 September 2014

The Eggner sibling trio of Georg (violin), Florian (cello) and Christoph (piano) presented this programme with viola player, Amihai Grosz, Principal Viola of the Berlin Philharmonic and a founding member of the Jerusalem String Quartet.

I had not heard the Eggner group before, but from the very opening lines of the Mozart it was obvious why they are firmly established in the forefront of chamber ensembles today. Viola associate Amihai Grosz melded seamlessly into the mix, and shared obviously in the pleasure they clearly enjoy in making music together.

The phrasing, tone and sensitivity of the melodic conversation that unfolds in the opening Allegro of the Mozart revealed a profound musicianship and impeccable polish that continued to mark the whole work, and indeed the entire programme.  The three movements of the Mozart score give wide scope to display the artistry of the tenderest melody making, for bold tempestuous interplay between competing instruments, for whimsical or thoughtful moods by turn, and the players made the most of every opportunity that this masterpiece offers.

Schumann’s Piano Trio no.3 is a rather turbulent work, where melodic motifs are often brief and frequently interrupted as they are exchanged or developed. The first movement is indeed marked “bewegt” (turbulent) and all three instruments are given the opportunity to participate fully in the dramatic, restless writing. The  tranquil second movement was a wonderful contrast that showcased some glorious melodic playing, before the vigour and strength of the two final movements, where the players explored every turn of the rich colour and variation. One could not fail to sense a level of mutual understanding that has had the chance to blossom in this trio group over many years of family music making.

Anthony Ritchie’s Oppositions was composed in 2005 for the NZ Piano Quartet. The composer’s programme notes explain that “It is in one movement, and is based around the idea of opposing forces, whether they be literal or imaginative. In musical terms, the piano is frequently pitted against the strings………..”. There is a lot of violent, strident, percussive writing, contrasted sometimes with more lyrical episodes, but the work is marked throughout by restless, abrasive tonalities that further heighten the tension and conflict between the various instrumental idioms. There is an outpouring of anger and violence that is clearly intended, and the players threw themselves into it with total commitment.

One felt both mentally and musically assaulted by the clash of the “Oppositions”, but for me the vivid descriptive qualities of the “music” became, frankly, overwhelming. While it was a very effective foil between two highly romantic items, I was relieved when the work ended, ungrateful as that may be of Richie’s acknowledged skills as a composer.

The Dvorak Piano Quartet no.2 is a heroic work in this genre, which the programme notes aptly described: “The work displays a melodic invention, rhythmic vitality and instrumental colour typical of the nationalist Dvorak at his peak……….”  The quartet threw themselves into the music with tremendous vigour and polish, displaying a huge dynamic range across the widely contrasting episodes which stretch from the most wistful delicacy to the almost symphonic proportions of the finale.

It was a riveting delivery that brought huge accolades from the audience, who were treated to an encore of the slow movement from Brahms’ E Minor Piano 4tet. The long opening cello melody was quite breathtaking, and made me wish for an opportunity to hear Florian Eggner in a sonata recital setting, where every note of his masterful playing would be heard. There had been times during the concert when, from our seats, it had been difficult to discern the cellist clearly, even though he had clearly been playing his heart out. It will be good when the Town Hall is again available for chamber music concerts, as such situations might well be taken care of there.


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