It’s a winning formula – attract an audience to a newly-restored small theatre to hear fine music played by a renowned professional group, then ply them with coffee and cake both before the show and at interval. It certainly appealed to the audience assembled in North Sydney’s Independent Theatre to hear the Streeton Trio’s program Young Genius.
The program featured early works by Beethoven, Enescu, Chopin and Debussy. The concert started with Beethoven at 23 years old, and closed with Debussy, who had chalked up just 18 years when he composed his one and only piano trio.
Passion and fire of early Beethoven
Each of the major works was briefly introduced a Streeton player, which gave context to the pieces and helped establish an atmosphere of warm collaboration with the audience.
Violinist Emma Jardine pointed out that the Beethoven Trio Op 1 No 3 was published by the composer against the advice of the revered Haydn, before the group launched into the piece which demonstrated that even the greats can be capable of misjudgement.
Streeton Trio’s intense commitment and close communication brought out the passion and fire which clearly characterised Beethoven from an early age. The second movement gave us a chance to catch our breath with a serene opening, before pizzicato passages introduced a surprising playful note with the instruments scuttling after each other in succession. A light-hearted third movement gave way to the fiery start of the finale, with a long balanced build-up leading into an uncharacteristically quiet finish to this revelatory work.
Romanian composer Georges Enescu’s Serenade Lointaine was the perfect foil for the fire of Beethoven. This exquisite miniature was described in interval discussion as ‘beautiful music’ and ‘just lovely’.
Chopin’s student assignment!
Pianist Benjamin Kopp explained that while Chopin’s Trio was written as a student assignment at age 19, it was also quite difficult to play. The group’s sense of attack and purpose underlined the maturity of the youthful composer’s vision, especially in the complex fireworks of the first movement. The more straightforward second movement was followed by moments in the third which truly engaged the individual instruments. A big finish rounded out the final movement.
Debussy’s Piano Trio, written before he had lessons in composition, lay hidden until it was rediscovered in 1984, as cellist Umberto Clerici informed us. I was particularly taken by the fun of the second movement, a scherzo which certainly lived up to its name; to my ears it conveyed the sense of an Eastern bazaar. The third movement gave many opportunities for the strings to sing, particularly Clerici’s beautifully mellow-toned 1758 cello. After the development of a number of different themes in the final movement, the work and the concert ended in a blaze of glory.
Unfamiliar and yet well-loved
The Streeton Trio can certainly be congratulated and thanked for a superb, committed performance that introduced many in the audience to unfamiliar works by well-known and loved composers. I also relished my first experience of this venue that, in my admittedly amateur view, has an ideal acoustic for chamber music.