Ghost Trio makes an auspicious debut at St.Andrew’s with music by Beethoven and Panufnik

Ghost Trio: Gabriela Glapska, piano, Monique Lapins, violin, Ken Ichinose, cello

Sir Andrzej Panufnik: Piano Trio Op.1

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1 No3

St. Andrews on the Terrace

Wednesday 1 July, 12.15 pm


This was a concert of music by two young composers living more than a century apart, still finding their musical language, but already foreshadowing the great works they were to produce later. Panufnik is hardly a household name. He was a prolific composer of 10 symphonies and other orchestral works, songs, chamber music and piano pieces. He was not yet twenty when he wrote the  Piano Trio in C minor as an ‘Exercise’. The piece opens with a dramatic piano solo with the violin and cello picking up motifs, elaborating and expanding them. The opening movement is an exercise in sonata form. The stormy beginning devolves into a beautiful lyrical passage. The second movement, Largo is a song with a tinge of sadness. The final movement, Presto is a Rondo, with a manic dance theme. To me the piece sounded like Debussy, rather the works of the young Panufnik’s great contemporary composers like Schoenberg, Hindemith or Prokofiev. This piece, like all of Panufnik’s music written before the war was lost during the Warsaw uprising of 1944 and Panufnik recreated it from memory in 1945, after the war and revised it again many years later. It is a very agreeable introduction to the music of one of the last century’s significant composers.

Beethoven’s three Piano Trios, Op. 1, were played at Count Lichnowsky’s palace probably in 1793. Beethoven was 23. He had learned from Haydn, had recently moved to Vienna, and these pieces were his calling card. Haydn considered the C minor Trio problematic, hard to understand, but the work gained popularity when published.  It heralded that here was a new, important musical voice, with powerful things to say about the turbulent world that Beethoven would later explore in works such as the ‘Pathétique’ Sonata or his Fifth Symphony. The first movement is built on a profound gorgeous melody developed in the interplay of the three instruments. The second movement, Andante Cantabile is an extended set of variations on a song-like melody that is at the heart of the piece. This is followed by a jolly Menuetto and Trio. The finale is a forceful Presto with a playful theme and a spectacular piano part that would have given Beethoven an opportunity to display his virtuosity.

This was an outstanding performance. The three musicians formed a cohesive ensemble. The pianist, Gabriela Glapska came from Poland to complete a PhD in performance at the NZ School of Music and now works there as an accompanist. She played with a natural ease and fluency, that she shared with the other two musicians. Monique Lapins  joined the NZ String Quartet last year. Her playing was notable for a beautiful tone and sensitivity. Ken Ichinose is the Associate Principal Cello of the NZ Symphony Orchestra and a very experienced chamber musician. He provided a secure clear and beautiful base line for the ensemble.

It was great to be back at the St, Andrews regular Wednesday lunch time concerts. These are such a feature of Wellington’s musical life. The audience was much larger than usual, perhaps because people were starved for live music, but almost certainly because they had anticipated an exceptionally fine concert.

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