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Arts Festival Review - NZTrio: Movement

Arts Festival Review - NZTrio: Movement

Review by Margaret Thompson

NZTrio: Movement
Beethoven: Piano Trio in D Major, Opus 70 No.1 (The Ghost), Allegro vivace e con brio
Ross Edwards: Piano Trio 2nd movement, Poco adagio e mesto, quasi recitativo
Dvorak: Piano Trio in F minor Opus 65, Allegro ma non troppo
Chen Yi: Tibetan Tunes, Dui Xie
Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor, Pantoum: Assez vif
Phil Dadson: Firestarters (Zones of darkness and unexpected light)
David Downes: Kingdom (world premiere)

Wellington Town Hall
6 March 2010

This was the concert I should have brought my aspiring teenage musicians too. What an exciting, fascinating new music fiesta! I say this in spite of the concert beginning with a Beethoven allegro movement, played with joyous élan. The clear sounds of the piano, violin and cello burst into the gorgeous acoustics of the Town Hall and set the scene for a truly amazing set of pieces.

Next was Ross Edwards’ shifting and spacious dialogue between the instruments, a delicate tracery of music perhaps evocative of the spaces and patterns of Australia. The Dvorak that followed was a strong contrast with lots of repetitive and noisy dynamics but, for me, somewhat lacking both the spark of the Beethoven and the interest of the new works. Chen Yi’s composition, based on a Tibetan folk song, was spiky, rhythmical, tuneful music with hints of the original Tibetan instruments – a lute, flute and fiddle according to the programme notes. The showstoppers of the concert were longer pieces by New Zealanders: “Firestarters” by Phil Dadson and “Kingdom” by David Downes, who both came on stage to acknowledge the performances.

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Both these pieces incorporate a film screen behind the players. With “Firestarters” the screen showed how the sounds were made – piano and strings plucked, tapped, harmonised, slid along in all kinds of innovative ways. The piece built up these sounds and rhythms steadily, almost in separate movements, until they were firmly established musically and for the listener. Whether it would be so much fun without seeing how it was done is debatable but the whole musical performance was very satisfying.

That is not the adjective I can apply to “Kingdom”, a piece originally commissioned by the NZ Trio. This was riveting, gripping, scary but not really enjoyable. The music was shackled to an animation of three dolls- father, mother and baby - caught in a terrifying dance macabre to do with family food rituals. It was brilliantly done but the story dominated the music so much that now I have forgotten the music and only remember the images.

The players of the trio are very impressive, seeming to meet all the challenges with great gusto and subtlety as may be required. They would illuminate whatever they play.


Press releases: Classical Music Premieres at the NZIAF Chamber Music Weekend, World Premieres for New Zealand Music and Theatre
Arts Festival website: NZTrio: Movement
Scoop Full Coverage: Arts Festival 2010

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