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Orion Trio regales Whangarei with Schubert, Brahms – and a probably distinctive encore – Seen and Heard Worldwide

New Zealand Schubert, Brahms: Orion Piano Trio (Marko Pop Ristov [violin], Marco Ariani [cello], Flavio Villani [piano]). Previous Library, Whangarei, New Zealand. 15.10.2022. (PSe)

Schubert – Piano Trio No.2 in E flat, Op.100

Brahms – Piano Trio No.1 in B, Op.8

This recital, the final of Whangarei Music Society’s 2022 season, was a part of a New Zealand tour supported, not by the ever-dependable Chamber Music NZ however by the Italian Embassy in NZ. The Orion Piano Trio’s title comes courtesy of a little bit of mildly lateral considering. Cellist Marco Ariani is Italian, pianist Flavio Villani is an Italian-born NZ citizen and violinist Marko Pop Ristov is a Macedonian who has been working in NZ since 2013. As a trio they thus relate strongly to each Europe and NZ. However, wanting laterally heavenwards, we are able to see that some constellations are seen from each Europe and NZ; essentially the most outstanding and simply recognisable of those is Orion, which they see as symbolic of their antipodean alliance. Potted ‘bios’ of the gamers themselves could be seen right here.

I’m a mite puzzled by the programme notes, which say that ‘2022 marks the birthday anniversaries [sic] of . . . Schubert and Brahms’. To be honest, any yr is a ‘birthday anniversary’ of everybody who has ever been born earlier than that yr. Does something make 2022 particular? Nicely, 2022 sees Schubert’s 225th birthday and Brahms’s 189th. These are hardly in ‘centennial’ territory, are they? Simply to confuse issues, the WMS discover was a bit extra express: ‘. . . the 2 hundredth birthday of Brahms [misspelt as ‘Bach’] and Schubert,’ which is mindless in any respect. Even in commemorative mode, the numbers are 194 and 125. So, by the look of it, the one technique to make something of that is, ‘the “2¼ centenary” of Schubert’s beginning and the “1¼ centenary” of Brahms’s loss of life.’ Have I missed one thing?

Happily, we don’t want any excuses for celebrating these two nice composers, whose mixed lives nigh-on spanned your entire Romantic period, and whose music – as represented right here by two magnificent piano trios – supplies countless alternatives for comparative consideration. In fact, this final is unlikely when you succumb to the music’s countless funds of sensual pleasure, a threat rendered a digital certainty by the siren sounds of the Orion Trio.

‘Siren’? Oh, sure. In a chamber-music world more and more focussed on the ‘macho’, no-holds-barred method, the Orion Trio stands out as disarmingly modest; allow us to hope that it will proceed to be so. These gamers bask in neither histrionic gestures (extravagant swaying and swooning are positively off the menu) nor high-octane interpretations. Their moderation is inherent of their very sound: heat and velvety; the violin svelte and the cello giving each audible impression that it has actual intestine strings (the piano belonged to the venue, however being warm-toned, it fitted in very properly). To match their heat they play with evident affection, but there isn’t any lack of readability of ensemble, or pinpoint accuracy of articulation, or, for that matter, number of assault and dramatic consciousness.

The Schubert, as an example, set off with a jaunty air, engendered by sprightly enjoying, fluidly expressive within the lyrical passages, in any other case appositely accented; in vividly drawing the musical panorama they drew the listener in. Their approach with the succeeding Andante con moto was splendidly graphic. The piano’s persistent, halting rhythm appeared nearly a baleful precursor of the rhythmic determine within the first motion of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony; the soulful cello theme developed as a lyric drama blossoming from infertile soil. The Orion saved the lid on it, thereby heightening the sensation of brewing unrest, in order that when it did boil over it pretty scalded – although by way of subtler means than mere brute energy of execution.

After that pressure-cooker of a motion, their Scherzo, spry, lilting and skittish, got here like a breath of recent air! Enlivened by some neat little tenuti, this fascinating stream of invention was all the higher for being unhurried! Seemingly selecting up the place the Scherzo left off, the finale started purposefully, step by step winding as much as a ‘virtuosic’ pitch, notes flying all over the place. I notably favored their approach with these little hiatuses the place the music slowed then paused, as if checking its route-map, earlier than selecting up – or taking pictures off – by way of even finer surroundings; typically glowing, more and more pressing, they pressed the music onward to its joyous objective.

Lest the unwary (equivalent to I) ought to think about the Brahms Op.8 to be a piece of his youth, and consequently be confused by the distinct impression of maturity engendered by the music itself, the programme notes identified that the middle-aged Brahms had seized a possibility for wholesale revision. Thanks for that. From a darkly brooding begin, the primary motion expanded bountifully, its lyricism growing right into a choppier journey, closely accented, punchy, bursting with Brahmsian vitality. This was weightier, extra rounded than the Schubert, however on no account earthbound! Positioned second, the Scherzo, leaning a little bit in the direction of the polonaise, struck me nearly as ‘horse-riding’ music. The Orion Trio made all of it really feel very jolly, its Beethovenian touches like sly winks, and nearly defying the music’s contrapuntal nature – and wound it down respectfully to bow within the Adagio.

Right here the meandering phrases sounded curiously indifferent, though changing into extra flowing for some time. Total, the music sounded very sparse and hesitant (probably providing concepts to Bruckner?), lending the numb feeling of a surprised close to silence. Orion Trio opened the finale considerably like a spectral waltz, which step by step coalesced, rising extra intensely energetic – till, out of the blue, it turned extra like a Hungarian Dance (or perhaps a Gopak!). What the programme notice described as ‘moments of calm’ sounded to me extra like ‘pauses for concern’, however finally the affirmative received the day in a welter of exhilaratingly expansive enjoying.

The applause over, the viewers remained firmly seated, in anticipation of one thing extra. Billed as the center merchandise was Kiwi composer Claire Cowan’s Refined Dances; was this being saved as an encore? The gamers returned – alas, empty handed. Oh, we acquired an encore alright: within the probably unprecedented type of an apology: that they had omitted to deliver the music.

Late that night time, the Trio’s fabulous music-making nonetheless reverberating at the back of my thoughts, I stepped out onto the decking. This confronted eastwards; and above the timber and rooftops, for the primary time this Spring, I noticed Orion rising! Is there such a factor as an omen after the occasion?

Paul Serotsky



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