Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

NZ Trio at Marama Hall 4 May

An exhilarating programme of recent works by New Zealander and current Mozart Fellow, Chris Adams, and Kenji Bunch – born in the USA – presented by the NZ Trio was exceptionally well received by a crowded house at Marama Hall on Wednesday. Adams’ work “Jekyll Rat” is composed, Adams tells us, around that intriguingly slippery MP Rodney Hide. So this slightly programmatic work commences in, (presumably) the restaurant “me ne Frego”. We are invited to dine furtively accompanied by much scurrying. We are then greeted by the “Sycophant’s dance” – a twisted black humoured burlesque. We come to rest, as it were, on “Insanity” and something of a dirge. This is an extremely exhilarating and cleverly appealing work.

Next to Bunch’s “Swing shift – Groove Boxes” which lived up to its name. Rhythmic, punchy relatively minimal with rock layers and riffs, grungy and gritty slides make this a particularly East coast American sound. It is exceptionally good to hear our NZ Trio, who, it would seem take their lead from the Kronos Quartet, doing such a work incredible justice. These edgy works were smoothed out by a vigorous performance of Brahms “Piano Trio No 1”. It is a beautiful work in the real Romantic sense, beautifully performed with a twentieth-century edge, and doubtless providing some sort of insurance of capturing the wider audience – whoever they might be. But one wonders if closing the performance with the notion that contemporary problems and reality can be solved handsomely, was absolutely appropriate to the mood of the first half of the programme.

The NZ Trio have become a national treasure. Their performances are always slick, intelligent and professional – just as can be expected – however they are also delightfully and refreshingly lacking in pretentious ostentation.