Classical review: NZTrio masters of the musical mix

By William Dart

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Musicians' Chinese collaboration explores versatility of strings.

NZTrio wrapped up their latest Lardelli commission,  Between Strings, within two fragrant specimens of romantic chamber music. Photo / File
NZTrio wrapped up their latest Lardelli commission, Between Strings, within two fragrant specimens of romantic chamber music. Photo / File

Beyond the windows of Q Theatre's Loft, the city was obligingly quiescent on this Sunday evening, the flickering blue and red light of a police car just a momentary distraction during the second concert in NZTrio's Loft series.

Once again these musicians affirmed their status as masters of the musical mix, wrapping their latest commission, Dylan Lardelli's Between Strings, within two fragrant specimens of romantic chamber music.

Amy Beach's 1938 Piano Trio would have been old-fashioned in its time. However, its meld of misty impressionism, lushly woven textures and Gaelic hoe-down, all gathered together from older material, is the American composer at her best. It was given a lovely rendering. In the first movement, Sarah Watkins provided the sheen, while Justine Cormack and Ashley Brown engaged in delicately poised dialogue, heightened by the occasional flirtatious portamento.

The new Lardelli work was a collaborative venture, enlisting Xiyao Chen on the guzheng, or Chinese zither.

Yao introduced himself by enchanting us with two solos on a traditionally tuned instrument.

One was an ethereal folksong, with a soupcon of Oriental blues in its wispy bent notes; the other was the spirited Celebrating the Lantern Festival, by Yao's grandfather Cao Dongfu, letting loose with some bold dramatic gestures.

Moving to a second, specially tuned guzheng, Yao joined NZTrio in Lardelli's exhaustive and fascinating exploration of the sonic possibilities of four string instruments.

A complex score (with three pages of instructions) made for a beguiling soundscape. Much was whispered, often ingeniously in harmonics, with perhaps some secrets left undivulged.

Yet, in scale and sonorities, this was an exquisitely crafted rapprochement of East and West.

These musicians included Arensky's First Piano Trio in a concert nine years ago, marking the group's residency with Auckland University's School of Music.

NZTrio has been an independent entity for some years now, and on the night the confidence and sheer thrust in tackling this Russian score compelled, even if a slight edge occasionally crept into the string tone.

- NZ Herald

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