The concert in the visually delightful Melbourne Recital Centre Primrose Potter Salon by the piano trio Strelitzia showcased music by four women composers. This venue tends to emphasise bass sonorities but with violinist Lucy Warren leading there was never a doubt that the higher lines would be heard. Warren gave a singular demonstration that she is at the forefront of the younger generation of chamber music leaders in this country. Drama filled and honey-toned lines were a constant from this violinist.
Pianist Michael Curtain treated each work with such consideration. Elegant here, introverted there and thrilling when appropriate. His playing in Fanny Mendelssohn’s Trio was perfectly balanced – concerto-like when required and the most subtle chamber musician at other times.
Cello stalwart Eleanor Betts had much to offer with many moments of delightful arching lines.
The main work, and the most musically satisfying, was the Piano Trio in D minor op.11 by Fanny Mendelssohn. Over recent decades this composer, and this work in particular, has received much acclaim and the performance by Strelitzia showed why it is an important part of early romantic music full of lush string melodies, virtuosic piano sections and all the time in the zeitgeist of the early Romantic Period. At times it felt as if the music could not be contained within the ‘walls’ of three instruments and wanted to be symphonic, and the skills and interpretation of Strelitzia helped in creating this feeling. This is music that revels in conjuring up big ideas from the natural world – storms, raging seas, glorious mountain vistas and, of course with the Romantics, the human condition.
Armenian composer Gayaneh Tchebodarian’s 8-minute Piano Trio was the embodiment of music from her country – think Arutunian and Khachaturian – with lots of energy contrasted with predictably gentle and sweet music.
The two movement Piano Trio of the USA contemporary Jennifer Higdon explored territory that many composers in the first half of the 20th century developed. It opened with an exquisite Aaron Copland-like wash of sound before enjoying other musics and palettes finally settling on the energy, if not the harmonic invention, of Prokofiev’s piano sonatas.
Strelitzia is a group that deserves our attention – wonderful musicians presenting innovative and intriguing concerts.