A knack for creative programing
It was a chilly August evening in Lavender Bay last Friday night, but several dozen souls braved the weather for The Reservoir Trio’s program with the intriguing title The Earth and the Supernatural. Once again, this exciting new addition to the Sydney classical scene did not disappoint. Trio members are Chris Cartner on piano, Ursula Nelius on violin, and Paul Stender playing cello.
The venue — Christ Church Anglican, surely a great space for anything supernatural — was candle lit and lights were dimmed (and thanks to the person who came early and put the heaters on!). Chris Cartner (piano) introduced the program — Beethoven’s Ghost Trio, Kats-Chernin’s The Spirit and the Maiden, and Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre. I’m not sure if these three very different pieces have ever been linked together before, but The Reservoir Trio seems to have a knack for doing this sort of creative programming.
Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 5 in D major
The evening opened with Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 5 in D major, a standard in the piano trio repertoire, and structurally intriguing. The first and third movements are as expected, but it is the amazing Largo of the second movement, lasting longer than 10 minutes, that led to this being called the ‘Ghost Trio’. So the story goes, Beethoven’s piano student Carl Czerny wrote that this movement reminded him of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Maybe — Beethoven’s notebook suggests at the time he was discussing an opera of Macbeth with a playwright. The words ‘Macbett’ and ‘Ende’ appear near sketches for the Largo. The ‘Ghost’ movement was possibly meant for a scene of the three Witches. Anyway, the nickname stuck. The first movement opens with a dramatic flourish and quickly transitions into a lyrical and flowing theme. The Largo seems totally different from the first and third movements — the tempo is extremely slow, and seems to transport us to another world. The delicate interaction between the instruments had me holding my breath at times, and some of the chords had an eerie sound. This movement in particular requires extremely skilful and sensitive playing and The Reservoir Trio proved to be more than up to the task.
Elena Kats-Chernin’s The Spirit and the Maiden
Elena Kats-Chernin is a contemporary Australian composer. Her piano trio The Spirit and the Maiden is based on a Russian fable. Before each movement, the pre-recorded relevant section of the fable was read out to enhance our enjoyment of the music. While I loved the music with its Russian (and even Spanish flavour), I did not think as written it reflected the emotions of the story in places. But the playing of it was gripping with its passion, high energy and drama, balanced by sections full of wonder and gentleness. I made a mental note to buy a CD of this trio.
Saint-Saens Danse Macabre
The Trio’s third piece was Saint-Saens Danse Macabre. Here the devil, depicted by the violin, swings into action at midnight (12 beautiful chimes on piano and cello) and whips the dead into a crazy and frenzied dance. As dawn appears (and through the cello we hear the cock crow) the dead return to their graves and peacefulness returns.
Followed by a drink with the musicians
The program was only a little over an hour, finishing shortly after 7pm, allowing audience members who wanted to go to dinner or a show to do so. Those of us who didn’t have to rush off stayed to enjoy the complimentary drinks and chat with the musicians. If you’re kicking yourself for missing this, the good news is you can catch a repeat of the program at Pitt St Uniting Church, 7pm, Thursday 7 August. Take my advice and be there! It will be heavenly!