In a melancholic year, the NZTrio delivers a shining show

The NZTrio. Photo / Garth Badger

What: NZTrio

Where: Town Hall Concert Chamber

Reviewer: William Dart

In any other year, NZTrio’s zesty account of Beethoven’s final piano trio from his very first opus would not have inspired a tinge of lingering melancholy.

The musicians shaded its Allegro con brio to perfection and deftly individualised a later set of variations. Yet, I found myself reflecting, with some sadness, on how Covid-19 has grievously affected concert celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday year.

Having acquitted themselves with spirit and style in mainstream repertoire, NZTrio moved on to the music with which many associate them.

Three contemporary pieces were the conceptual heart of a programme titled InterFusions.

Old Photographs by the Greek/Canadian Christos Hatzis was an unabashed audience-pleaser. However, despite a performance that could not have been bettered, I found its circling sequences too easy and predictable, its tango flirtations a third pressing of Piazzolla.

Dinuk Wijeratne’s Love Triangle was more substantial. Its Sri Lankan/Canadian composer fuses Middle Eastern, Indian and European idioms into a bewitching journey, with tonight’s players proving consummate travel guides.

The clear textures and sharply focused detail of Salina Fisher’s newly commissioned Kintsugi was a refreshing palate cleanser between these more extrovert offerings.

Taking her title from the Japanese tradition of joining together broken pottery pieces into new life, the New Zealand composer creates her own magic from mosaic-like themes and motifs.

Fisher is known for her delicate yet forceful orchestral washes and, working on a smaller canvas, she makes every gesture count. NZTrio played with the pride of ownership, ensuring that trilling strings, blooms of lyricism and a roving piano line coalesced into an impressive whole.

The evening ended with Ravel’s 1914 Piano Trio, an ideal illustration of the theme of the night’s concert, with its subtle blend of the composer’s French and Basque-Spanish heritage.

Veering sometimes dramatically from cool elegance to fiery passion, NZTrio came up with its usual meticulous musicianship, most telling in the slow mysteries of Ravel’s third movement.

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