Concert Review: NZTrio, Auckland Museum

By William Dart

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NZTrio deserves a larger audience. Photo / Supplied
NZTrio deserves a larger audience. Photo / Supplied

On Tuesday, NZ Trio launched the third concert of its 2011 Museum series, with one of the most delightful works in the repertoire.

Saint-Saens' First Piano Trio is a zesty affair, the essential link between the voluble sparkle of Mendelssohn and the chiselled neo-classicism of Ravel.

The musicians effortlessly caught the joyous swing of the opening movement as it sauntered along like a Brazilian dance yet to be discovered by Milhaud. Sarah Watkins' scales gleamed like dashings of carnival glitter.

To some, this music may seem lightish, but the craft is impeccable. Justine Cormack and Ashley Brown's second movement dialogues had a real thrust and engagement; in the final Allegro, the composer's ingenuity was beautifully realised.

Brahms' C minor Trio was magnificent. The opening pages might have roared with energy, yet a second theme was an understated sigh. The three musicians navigated Brahms' complex, shifting textures with no thematic connection unaccounted for.

The paradoxes of the Presto were deliciously apparent, while the Andante grazioso found all three players with nothing to fear from some of Brahms' most taxingly transparent writing.

NZTrio is known for its celebration of the contemporary, although another tired instalment from American Kenji Bunch's Swing Shift did not really warrant the attention it received.

Not so with wood: strings: hammers: flesh by young New Zealander Claire Cowan. From the start, Watkins announced that the composer had given them full licence to really go for it, and they did.

This was a fine concert that deserved a much larger audience. One hopes that NZTrio's final appearance, on November 6, will be duly noted in music-lovers' diaries.

- NZ Herald

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