The Reservoir Trio, St Andrews Chapel, the University of Sydney
Monday 17th March, 2014
What Do These Composers Have in Common?
As a frequent concert-goer I realized a few days ago that I have been brainwashed into expecting every concert program to have a common thread of some sort. Perhaps it is a single period such as Baroque, a single composer, or music from a single country. More later on the significance of this thought …
On Monday night last, a small but extremely appreciative audience was treated to a marvellous performance of music for piano trio by The Reservoir Trio, newly formed and so named because they all live in Sydney near The Paddington Reservoir Gardens. The trio debuted in 2013, and Monday’s program was the first of their 2014 performances as Ensemble in Residence at St Andrew’s College, Sydney University. I loved the intimate performing space of St Andrews Chapel with its historical atmosphere including old stained glass windows commemorating the lives of great men (didn’t spot any women!).
The program was intriguing – music by Mendelssohn, Piazzolla, and Grainger; a German, an Argentinian, and an Australian. No explanation was given as to why these particular composers’ works were selected, and I could not come up with a creative connection linking them – other than they provided a splendid opportunity to display the wonderful musical abilities of each of the performers.
The program opened with Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D min, a long time personal favourite of mine. Schumann called him “the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the most illuminating of musicians” and The Reservoir Trio demonstrated why. It is one of Mendelssohn’s finest compositions, full of feeling, with powerful melodies interwoven throughout the four movements, and requiring virtuosic playing. The first movement was performed with such passion the audience burst into spontaneous applause on the final chord. We managed to hold our clapping through the next three movements until the end.
I wondered if everything after the thrilling Mendelssohn would be an anticlimax. But the next two pieces by Piazzolla, who incorporated Argentinian tango rhythms into classical music, dispelled any doubts about that. The trio played two pieces – Oblivion, a lament, and La Muerte del Angel, meaning the death of the angel, but sounding very un-deathlike as the opening fugue morphed into syncopating and fiery rhythms. The audience loved them both.
The program closed more gently with Grainger’s Colonial Song arranged for piano trio, followed by an arrangement of an English Morris dance that Grainger said he “dished up for piano, violin, and cello”.
So, was there a common thread? Depends on your perspective I suppose. For me, it was beautiful music that engaged me at a very deep level, performed by three outstanding musicians who played with their heart and soul. You know, perhaps we don’t need a common thread after all.