Friends of Chamber Music

Trio con Brio Copenhagen

Date 28 October 2006, 20.00 Venue Vancouver Playhouse

Haydn Piano Trio in C major, Hob XV No. 27 Ravel Piano Trio in A minor Dvorák Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 90 (Dumky)

Violin Soo-Jin Hong Cello Soo-Kyung Hong Piano Jens Elvekjaer

Reviewer J H Stape

The opening concert of the Friends of Chamber Music's 59th season firmly accented youthful exuberance, with Trio con Brio easily living up to its name and offering stylish playing of a repertoire well chosen to show off its talents. Established in 1999, the piano trio in its extensive touring has built up a solid, and well deserved, reputation on the international chamber music scene.

The opening trio was standard issue Haydn: graceful and carefully balanced music of the pleasing rather than stirring kind. It received a polished and idiomatic performance, the trio's sound bright and vivid, with the piano to the forefront at the opening, and then a dialogue developing between the instruments. The sober, but not excessively serious Andante was finely turned, leading to strong contrast with the presto finale, full of energy and and sparkling with sparks and fire as it entered a headlong rush to the finish.

Contrast established itself as the evening's keynote with an electric performance of Ravel's gripping and inventive Piano Trio in A minor -- incontestably the evening's musical highlight. Based on secure technique and interpretive depth, this was an exploratory and risk-taking performance, which saw the strings come into their own after the elegant restraint displayed in the Haydn trio.

This intense, spellbinding music gave an opportunity to show off Trio con Brio's tonal beauty, and it was one grabbed with confidence, as committed playing and emotional power conjoined. The edgy, vivacious second movement, titled "Pantoum," and exploring a Malay verse form, got a dynamic and dramatic reading wherein the dialogue between form and content was carried out with singularly intelligent playing. Dense textures and colours dominated the dark-hued third movement, "Passacaille," while the closing movement, marked Animé, emphasized brilliance of effects and was an emotional roller-coaster, all the values thrilling brought out with taut playing.

Dvorák's Piano Trio in C minor explores the Slavic form of the dumka, with an immense, sometimes nearly unbearable motif of melancholy followed by an equally unrestrained joyous exuberance (often the equivalent of a "Knees Up, Babushka Browna"). Composed of six movements, the formal exploration depends upon colouring so that the whole avoids a sense of monotony even though repetition is of the essence. Trio con Brio proved as adept at the tense and brooding first motifs, as in conveying the maniacal happiness of the second. The violent contrastive effects demand a highly disciplined and thoughtful approach, fully on display by this youthful ensemble.

The concert, dedicated to the memory of Barbara Voltz, a longtime FCM supporter, closed with a gracious encore: the beautiful second movement of Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor, as if the Trio were thirsting to show its mastery of the Romantic repertoire as well as the ones essayed in the main portion of the concert.

© 2006 J H Stape