CD Review: Quercus Trio – Australian Horn Trios

by | May 3, 2023 | Ambassador thoughts, Brass, CD/Recording, Composer, Piano, Trios, Violin

QUERCUS TRIO

Carla Blackwood horn, Elizabeth Sellars violin, Rhodri Clarke piano


ROGER SMALLEY (1943–2015) – Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano (2000–2002) [23’06]

LARRY SITSKY (born 1934) – Barerq (1984) 4’05

ELENA KATS-CHERNIN (born 1957) – Velvet Revolution (1999) [15’49]

GORDON KERRY (born 1961) – No Abiding City (2001) 12’01

DON BANKS (1923–1980) – Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano (1962) [16’28]


When I was a teenager in the late 1960’s there was a lot of ‘noise’ about new rock groups being formed from members who left  other bands and the best of these were called ‘supergroups’. For me listening to Cream, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, was sensational as it brought together performers who were the foremost in their fields. For whatever reason the term ‘supergroup’ was not used in classical music circles but today I declare I have come across one from Melbourne, QUERCUS TRIO, made up of stars from other ensembles.

Carla Blackwood horn, Elizabeth Sellars violin, Rhodri Clarke piano are all virtuosi in their own right and with years of performing in different ensembles behind them they bring to this group such an awesome knowledge. Blackwood can produce heroic music one second before enchanting with an ethereal music from the heavens. Sellars weaves such a sweet tone and can also turn on the power when required and Clarke is the pianist I am sure every composer wants to interpret their music.

quercus 21 edit

Roger Smalley came to Australia as a 30 year old steeped in European new music of the era, the early 1970’s, and over time his music morphed into a hybrid where melody and traditional harmony came to the fore and this marvellous trio shows his ‘Australian voice’ beautifully. The drama of the Allegro energico seems to float off with the dreamy horn solo and grumbling piano music at the start of the Mirror Variations and with the exquisite entry of the violin the music lulls the listener before rollicking into several variations that allows the performers to explore many varied tonal worlds. The Allegro molto is a vehicle for performers to have fun and to share it with their audience. Fabulous playing of music that is satisfying on so many levels.

Barerq, a perfect miniature by Larry Sitsky, allows Blackwood to sing a lament whilst a chordal piano part marks out the passage of time. When the violin enters at the half way point, tears well up at the sheer beauty and the controlled intensity of both the music and the performance. 4 minutes of magic!

A more pop style and simple work, Velvet Revolution, by Elena Kats-Chernin is given a committed performance and leads to Gordon Kerry’s No Abiding City. This work like all the works on the CD allows many opportunities for the musicians to shine. The mix of heavy-hitting works like the Banks and Smalley with a gentler approach from Kerry and more approachable music of Kats-Chernin is spot on. The Kerry is a work that will reveal itself with many more hearings.

Don Banks has long been regarded as one of the most important composers from Australia and placing his Trio as the final work on the CD shows the respect given the music by the performers and ABC Classic. The first movement opens with a powerful horn call which takes us on a journey to a series of little cells of invention oscillating between drama and calmness. The transition to the at times serene Adagio espressivo, is nigh on imperceptible and the tranquil surface belies the intellectual approach from Banks. Occasional jazz influences punctuate the happy and joyous music of the Moderato; scherzando which rounds out this wonderful and important collection of Australian music for this ensemble.

From the otherworldly opening of Smalley’s Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano through to the last moments of the trio by Don Banks the playing is, like the rock band Cream was to me as a teenager, sensational.

The recording is fresh and the whole CD shows excellent production values and I enjoyed the informative program notes in the booklet.

Alan


And if you are in Melbourne…

Join QUERCUS TRIO for a live launch on 6 May, 8pm at Tempo Rubato in Brunswick. Bookings available at Tempo Rubato >> 

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About The Author

Alan Holley

Alan has been composing works that have been regularly performed and broadcast in Australia since the mid-1970s and over the past 25 years his music has become increasingly well-known in America and Europe. His trumpet concerto Doppler’s Web (2005) and A Line of Stars (2007) were commissioned and performed in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. His music is published by EMI Australia, Allans and Kookaburra Music and recordings of his music have been released on numerous labels.

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