Fine concert from a three-nations piano trio in a three-nations choice of great music

Waikanae Music Society

Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor
Gao Ping: Su Xie Si Ti / Four Sketches
Schubert: Piano Trio in B flat, D.898

Calvino Trio (Jun Bouterey-Ishido, piano; Sini Simonen, violin; Alexandre Foster, cello)

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday 3 July 2016, 2.30pm

A Canadian cellist, a Finnish violinist and a New Zealand pianist got together at Prussia Cove in England in 2013, and have made a very competent and successful trio.  We were honoured to hear such a fine group of young musicians.

The Ravel work is a much-loved and often performed trio.  It was one of the works performed by the former Canterbury Trio, the death of whose outstanding violinist and teacher, Jan Tawroszewicz, was sadly noted this past week.  There’s a link here: Jun Bouterey-Ishido studied with Diedre Irons when she was a member of the Trio.

The work is a gift for the pianist; the ethereal opening for that instrument is a wonderful start to the trio (first movement: modéré).  It does not end there; the strings enter and add to the magic.  All three instrumentalists are given the opportunity by Ravel to fully exploit the sonorous qualities of their instruments.  They produced vigorous playing when required.

Despite there being little eye contact between the performers compared with what happens in some chamber music groups, these players were obviously well aware of each other, and their ensemble lacked nothing.  The audience sat attentive and spell-bound.

The opening of the second movement (Pantoum: assez vif) was startling; so different from the first.  There was much diversity and liveliness: a vociferous mélange of different sounds and rhythms.  The third movement (Passacaille: très large) begins on the piano, then velvety sounds from the cello and violin emerge.  Noble passages for piano follow.  A muted section for strings was quietly intense.

The fourth movement (Final: animé) was always thoroughly alive; all of Ravel’s twists and turns were meticulously rendered.  One could imagine watching dancers on  a summer’s day, the bees buzzing as the dance became more and more agitated.  This quartet demands much of the players; the Calvino Trio had it in spades.

The Gao Ping work had been written for NZ Trio in 2009.  The first sketch was entitled Xiao (Boisterous), and indeed it was.  Each player was all over the place.  One could feel the bumpy motorcycle ride described in the programme notes.   The second (Cuo Diao; Split Melody) used an intriguing sequence of individual notes; charming. For the third (Dui Wei; Counterpoint), the violinist disappeared, and played her part from behind the screen that masked the door through which the players enter.  Piano and cello began solemnly – this movement refers to  funeral procession, but the violin plays ‘happy music’ while cello and piano continue with mournful music.  This sketch would be challenging to play, but it was both interesting and evocative to listen to.

The final movement (Shuo; Shining) had the violinist back in her place.  Pizzicato on all the instruments was very effective, the staccato continuing on the piano against chords and glissandi on the strings  All was excitement in ending the work.

After the interval came the glorious and familiar Schubert trio.  It opened with verve.  Jun Bouterey-Ishido appeared to be in his element.  He is a very sensitive pianist and colours his phrases beautifully.  All three players seemed well attuned to each other.

A delightfully sprightly passage with cello pizzicato was superbly played, as was the following section with the melody on the cello.  Schubert’s inventiveness was fully on display here.  Dynamics were observed with great panache.  Cellist Foster’s sotto voce pizzicato was delicious.  The pianist, too, had wonderful pianissimo passages that he played with an enviable lightness of touch.  The effervescence of this long movement could not fail to capture the audience.

The andante slow movement was very affecting in its solemnity.  Slight rubati were absolutely consistent between the players.  The many variations held each its own delights and profundities; in short, gorgeous. The scherzo revealed Schubert at his good-natured best.  The waltz trio features off-beat piano accompaniment – an enchanting touch.  The return of the scherzo was given depth as well as liveliness.

The rondo finale was dance-like, with quieter interludes; delicacy and robustness alternated.  It was a joyous performance.  Just a slight loss of intonation towards the end of this movement was the only lapse – otherwise, the playing was faultless.

The pianist always looked as if he was enjoying himself; the violinist often had a slight smile on her face, though the cellist was more impassive, expressing himself through his beautiful playing.

This was a fine concert indeed, and all would wish the Calvino Trio success and enjoyment on the rest of their tour for Chamber Music New Zealand, and in the future.


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