On a hot and humid night in the historic Balmain Presbyterian Church the Sydney Piano Trio gave its inaugural concert with works by Hummel, Ravel and Pauline Oliveros, (b.1932). Mid-January in Sydney is a time when classical concertgoers find the going a little tough as there are very few concerts to attend. So it was a delight to hear this varied and intelligently conceived program performed by the newest chamber group in our city.
Technically impeccable and thoroughly musical performers
The two string players, violinist Alex Norton and cellist Christopher Pidcock, are part of the new breed of young, technically impeccable and thoroughly musical performers who have joined the ranks of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra over the last couple of years. Even in this, their first recital it was clear that there was a uniform approach to pulse, vibrato speeds and all the other technical aspects that are the starting point to making music.
Hummel Piano Trio no. 2 displayed their technique and warmth of tone
Hummel’s Piano Trio no. 2, from 1799, is a lightweight though pleasant work showing the influence of Mozart and also little hints of Beethoven. It was an appropriate choice for the Sydney Piano Trio as it allowed all three players to display their technique and the warmth of their tone.
Tree/Peace (1984) by the American Pauline Oliveros was probably receiving its Australian premiere. Even though Oliveros is well known and indeed revered in the USA, her music does not travel all that well as it has a looseness of form that does not allow her musical argument to develop to its best advantage. Still, I was pleased to hear the work in a concert setting.
Ravel Piano Trio in A minor had enchanting string playing
The major work, and the only one on the program by an acknowledged master, was Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor (1914). This unabashed romantic music was started before the outbreak of the First World War but completed in a hurry soon after hostilities had started. Even though there is much beautiful writing for the strings, as was evidenced by the enchanting string playing at the end of the first movement and again in the slow movement, it really is a piece where the piano comes to the fore. Jocelyn Ho brought forward a considered approach to this work but was a little overshadowed by the strings. Maybe this was in part due to the small grand piano as in her recordings I know her to be a powerful and dynamic performer. It was a good performance but the magic that can occur in his work was not quite there.
Our city is fortunate to have the Sydney Piano Trio.
It is clear that this is an ensemble of the highest technical standard and that they bring a real excitement to the stage. The very enthusiastic audience gave them a welcome to remember.
Sydney Piano Trio | Classical: Redefined | Friday, January 16th, Balmain Presbyterian Church
Alex Norton – violin, Christopher Pidcock – cello, Jocelyn Ho – piano