During the years, Auckland concertgoers have enjoyed memorable concertos from top rank international violists, from Csaba Erdelyi and Yuri Bashmet to Maxim Rysanov.
Thanks to Chamber Music New Zealand, we were doubly privileged to experience the charismatic Jennifer Stumm in an intimate chamber music setting, with the simpatico support of Wellington's Te Koki Trio.
The programme, Secrets & Hidden Messages, saw the American conceptualising a journey into the deep romantic territory of Schumann and Brahms. Her spoken introductions were extremely welcoming, especially with three miniature solos by Gyorgy Kurtag; after stressing their Hungarian folk spirit in words, she brought them to zesty life.
Stumm's principal exploration set off with Schumann's Fairy Tale Pictures, a heartrending score, written on the cusp of his mental decline. With pianist Jian Liu, she gave us yearning sighs, frisky marches and virtuoso scurryings, ending with a richly toned slow movement that showcased her glorious Gasparo da Salo instrument.
The two musicians caught every rhythmic punch and tussle of the lively scherzo that Brahms contributed to the so-called F.A.E. Sonata, followed by a mid-concert encore, as Stumm acknowledged her Southern roots in a passionate Appalachian folk song.
Brahms' rarely heard Werther Trio occupied the second half of the evening, connecting the threads of the programme's underlying theme. Stumm was a forceful presence, visually and musically, but never dominated the finely honed ensemble. Special plaudits to cellist Inbal Megiddo for imbuing the gorgeous opening theme of the Andante with just the inner glow that it demands.
One of the offerings did not feature the American soloist: a new commission for piano trio by Michael Williams. There were no secrets or hidden meanings in Spirit Flies Sun Rises, a deeply personal tribute to two losses in the Hamilton composer's life. However, the 10-minute trajectory from shimmering textures to the stark, chordal simplicity that Williams does so well, was a compelling journey in its own right.
What: Jennifer Stumm with Te Koki Trio
Where: Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber
Reviewed by: William Dart