Review of Dunedin Youth Orchestra

Review: NZ Trio at Glenroy 3 May

A brilliant programme was vigorously applauded by a capacity audience at the newly refurbished Glenroy Auditorium on Friday. True to their reputation, the NZTrio represented works from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries balanced - as it were - by one work from the late nineteenth century. While this might suggest that the second half smoothed the rough edges of the first this was far from true or necessary. Tchaikovsky’s long Piano Trio composed in 1882 is wrung from simple melodies used initially as question and answer and finally after a series of variations to create a grand unison. Given a strong, dazzling, fiery and light interpretation, particularly from the pianist Sarah Watkins, it left the audience overawed at the closing reference to the Chopin Funeral March. Bravo. The first half of the evening was equally enrapturing. Bright Sheng’s Four Movements for Piano Trio relays his native Chinese musical tongue via this Western media with amazing verity. Notes slide, melodies ring out from single tones, harmonics create a sense of distance, while the infectiously rhythmic percussive use the bodies of the instruments provided a fourth dimension. Wonderful. Aucklander Claire Cowan’s “Subtle Dances” takes the audience through a delightfully eclectic musical world tour with snatches of Piazzolla, the gravity of Shostakovich melded with earthy blues and Reich’s hypnotic rhythmic shifts. It is a measure of her talent that she achieves these allusions while creating a voice of her own. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, a pupil of Roger Sessions and Elliott Carter, allows her Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello to talk to the audience while retaining her obvious allegiance to the European avant-garde. There is also perhaps a nod in Shostakovich’s direction. NZTrio gave the Zwilich work its New Zealand premiere calling attention to its chilling discords and highlighting its emotional swirling from the furious to the sweet. All four works, interpreted with compelling strength, connected well with an audience grateful to hear a programme nearly replete with contemporary works. Marian Poole