Unusual trios for contrasted groups, influenced disparately by viola d’amore and the Holocaust

Music of Sorrow and Love
Archi d’amore Zelanda and the Terezin Trio

Archi d’amore Zelanda (Donald Maurice – viola d’amore, Jane Curry – guitar, Emma Goodbehere – cello)
Michael Williams: Suite per antichi archi
Boris Pigovat: Strings of Love (2016)

Terezin Trio (Katherine McIndoe – soprano, Reuben Chin – alto saxophone, Heather Easting – piano)
Ellwood Derr: I never saw another butterfly

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 18 May, 12:15 pm

This lunchtime concert combined two young chamber groups in music that touched on tragic themes and conditions of the heart, physical and emotional. Perhaps they were to be seen as metaphysically linked.

We have heard several performances by Donald Maurice’s Archi d’amore Zelanda; the last let us hear both the viola d’amore and the modern viola; in fact the last outing was just a fortnight ago, as part of an octet playing Vivaldi.

Today, they played two pieces commissioned by them and which will have their ‘world premieres’ in a forthcoming trip to Poland where they will play at the Europejskiego Centrum Muzyki Krzysztofa Pendereckiego w Lusławicach (or European Center for Music, Krzysztof Pendercki, Lusławice), a small town east of Krakow. Check it out on the Internet.

It is an important cultural centre with origins as an intellectual and artistic centre in the 17th century. It is not far from Penderecki’s birthplace, and the composer bought the old manor in 1976 and restored it to create a music centre, with a beautiful contemporary building opened in 2013.

The Trio will also give concerts in Krakow and Warsaw.

Michael Williams
Suite per antichi archi
was commissioned from Hamilton composer Michael Williams.

His piece touched on the heart, and its first movement was named for the heart condition, ‘Arrhythmia’, an obtuse reference to music with varying rhythms. For the first few minutes all three instruments were plucked, rhythmically though in varying bar-lengths; then viola d’amore and cello returned to bowing. The music might not have been too complex or academic, but it was attractive, untroubled. The second movement, Cavatina, was slower and elegiac, with much attention to the lower strings of all three instruments; there was a hint of Spanish music guitar of the 17th or 18th centuries (Hopkinson Smith’s concerts at the 2014 Festival stimulated my interest in and enjoyment of it). The third movement was a fugue, with the bowed instruments used mainly in that way, gaining speed subtly as the mood lightened and became dance-like, though remaining in an antique mode.

Boris Pigovat
Boris Pigovat and Donald Maurice have formed a partnership/friendship since the composer wrote a Holocaust Requiem in 1995, with an obbligato viola for Maurice, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nazis’ atrocity, Kristallnacht. Atoll Records recorded it by the Wellington Orchestra under Taddei with Maurice as violist.

The latest fruit of that association is Pigovat’s Strings of Love.

Because I hadn’t heard very much of what the musicians said about the music, I asked Donald Maurice for some help and he gave me the following about this piece.

“Much of [Pigovat’s] music since [the Requiem] is reminiscent of those ideas [in the Requiem], in particular in his viola sonata, and in this new piece, Strings of Love, there are similar ideas to the ‘Lux Aeterna’ from the Requiem. It also includes a clear quotation of the nursery lullaby ‘Rock-a-Bye Baby, on the Tree Top’. This poem was believed to have been written by a pilgrim who travelled on the Mayflower and it was a comment on the way the American Indians rocked their babies to sleep by hanging their bassinets off tree branches. This observation about the significance of the theme in the trio is my own, not from Boris!”

So there was dreamy quality in the viola and cello in the opening part, then a kind of a popular tune, with perhaps the influence of a guitar, though the viola dominated the melody. The mood lightens and the tempo increases towards the end. Both the music’s intention and its performance were of attractive clarity and should help create a nice repertoire for the innovative combination of viola d’amore, cello and guitar which, judging by the sort of music they inspire, evokes feeling that relate Renaissance or Baroque sensibility to contemporary musical values and social issues.

Ellwood Derr
I never saw another butterfly was written in 1966 around poems written by children in the terrible concentration camp at Terezin in Czechoslovakia. So it has an affinity with the much later written Third Symphony of Gorecki.

It’s composed for a trio, appropriately entitled Terezin: soprano, alto saxophone and piano. Soprano Katherine McIndoe has, in only a couple of years, established an attractive record in competitions and small opera performances, such as with Days Bay Opera. It’s a strong voice with a keen-edged vibrato that might need watching in years to come, but which showed admirable accuracy in the early quasi-atonal music and an air of electrified fear in the section so marked. Her spoken words came almost as a shock.

Reuben Chin’s contribution on the alto saxophone too, was most accomplished: twittering and bird-like (rather than simulating a butterfly) in the Prologue; while the calm, Debussyish, accepting spirit of ‘The Garden’ hardly disguised the underlying hopeless grief that is embedded in the music. Throughout, Heather Easting’s piano lent expressive and sympathetic backing, often rather dominating the scene as near the end of the fourth section, marked ‘Fear’.

I had hesitated about coming to this concert, thinking one of my colleagues was to review it, but was engrossed by both these unfamiliar trio ensembles right from the start.


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