Another enticing programme at the Sydney Mozart Society’s new Chatswood venue featured the Streeton Trio, now resident in Sydney having been formed in Europe. Their regular cellist Umberto Clerici, was unavailable and his place was taken by Julian Smiles, rather like having John Bell as your understudy for a performance of Hamlet!
The violinist, Emma Jardine introduced the first piece, Mozart’s Piano Trio in G, K496. It was re-discovered in 1962 and though supposedly written in 1786 dates stylistically from earlier. The first movement features an extended theme introduced by the pianist who excelled as the dominant player in this work,as in earlier trios. The second movement is supremely intricate and lyrical,while the finale is a theme with six variations.The work had a satisfactorily spiritedly feel enhanced by expressive playing by all three artists whose timing appeared perfect.
Rachmaninoff’s Trio Elegiaque No. 1 in G minor was written when the composer was 19. Those citing it as a tribute to his mentor, Tchaikovsky, point to the opening theme being an inversion of the famous four note opening of the latter’s First Piano Concerto but this is tenuous, particularly as it appears here in the minor mode. What is not tenuous is that the work, in one movement, is sad, contemplative and expressive and flows with an intensity that belies the age of the composer. Starting with a rolling theme on the piano, the work develops in Sonata form while the recapitulation takes the two main themes and weaves them beautifully in twelve segments. Where the Mozart piece was intricate, this piece evoked solace and longing with a Russian undertone.
After the break, we heard Arvo Pärt’s Adagio based on the slow movement of Mozart’s Sonata K280 which he wrote in memory of the death of the Russian violinist and close friend Oleg Kagan. The relevant sonata by a youthful Mozart is rarely heard and at the start is reminiscent of the Adagio of his 23rd Piano Concerto. Pärt has added an introduction, interlude and coda, and although there is a modern dissonant component, the music does not grate in any way. It is a memoir but not a dirge and gives an aura of peacefulness, particularly as the strings fade away at the end. Music by this contemporary Estonian composer never fails to excite and soothe the senses.
Mendelssohn wrote a large amount of chamber music which is rarely played, although it is gradually getting greater exposure, but I’m sure I’m not alone in hearing his Trio in C for the first time. I found the playing of the Streeton Trio particularly impressive in this piece with the experience of the cellist giving a stabilising influence. The first movement is built on two themes, one minor and one major, and after fast passages by the pianist, Benjamin Kopp, they intertwine towards the end. The slow second movement, although in a major key, is sad and poignant. The scherzo, typical of the composer, is a Perpetuum Mobile reminiscent of that of the composer’s Octet while the Finale returns to the home key. Starting in an agitated state, it is tempered by a passage in A major which mimics a theme from a well-known hymn before the two themes do battle with the Major triumphing at the end. I look forward to hearing this work for a second time.
Four unfamiliar pieces made up this concert which proved stimulating and, judging by the applause, extremely enjoyable. Each work had points of interest and provided easy listening, a tribute to the Sydney Mozart Society and to the Streeton Trio which melded superbly in its altered format.