29 Nov 2022
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NZTrio - Gig Review: NZTrio @ Town Hall, Auckland - 29/05/2022

31 May 2022 // A review by Clare Martin

NZTrio celebrated mighty masterpieces alongside contemporary genre-busters for its twenty-year anniversary at Auckland Town Hall ’s Concert Chamber on Sunday night. NZTrio comprised of Somi Kim (piano), Ashley Brown (cello) and Amalia Hall (violin) have a proud legacy of performing works by Kiwi composers with over 70 commissions over two decades. Coming full circle, NZTrio’s programme, titled Legacy 1 included a new commission by Kiwi Michael Norris, who wrote their very first commission ever in 2003.

The start of the journey was Schumann's 1845 work Six Pieces in Canon, a nod to Bach ’s polyphonic genius. The very first bars struck up such a sweet pleasure of tone in the jewel-box acoustic of the Concert Chamber. This was a real delight of dancing fugal motifs and dolcissimo interchange between strings and piano.

I really enjoyed NZTrio’s performance of Michael Norris’ Dirty Pixels in 2017 and so was interested to hear his brand new work on Sunday night. His Horizon Fields was composed this year and did not disappoint - this was a real piece of beauty and intrigue. Taking its themes from a work by sculptor Antony Gormley, piano notes glowed deeply, suspended in space before teetering string sounds skewed us off-axis. The space and weirdness of some of the tonality was almost sci-fi. The excellent acoustics of the Concert Chamber allowed the full range of timbre to be heard - from the dull thud of a prepared piano note to the merest scraping of bow edge. The latter half of the piece had hypnotic qualities - deep resonance from the piano intoned against scurrying agitato strings. Here was a truly satisfying pairing of Norris’ sound vision with the genuine artistry of NZTrio.

An evening with NZTrio always engages the ‘shuffle button’ and the next piece in the evening was yet another style. Ukrainian Nikolai Kapustin was the pioneer of the Soviet jazz scene in the 1950s and acquired a reputation as a jazz pianist, arranger and composer. His Trio Opus 86 written in 1998 when Kapustin was in his sixties is a hugely entertaining piece miraculously fusing jazz and classical idioms. Somi Kim on piano showed her virtuosity with bluesy vamps that dazzled. Ashley Brown’s cello acted as the ‘jazz band’s’ double-bass in parts and Amalia Hall was Stéphane Grapelli-embodied with jazzy flights of fancy. So much personality from the stage and a delightful colour change in the programme.

The evening was book-ended with Beethoven’s grand Archduke Piano Trio in B-flat major Opus 97. Returning to 1811 and the classical music idiom once again completed the evening with appropriate gravitas. The almost full audience in the Concert Chamber was testament that Auckland loves the national treasure that is NZTrio.

NZTrio Legacy 1 at Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber on Sunday 29 May 2022
Schumann – Sechs Stücke in kanonischer Form, Op. 56 arr. for Piano Trio, I & II
Norris – Horizon Fields (new commission)
Kapustin – Trio, Op. 86
Beethoven – Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 97 Archduke.

Images courtesy of NZTrio
Colour Image by Clare Martin
View photos from NZTrio's Auckland show, courtesy of Chris Zwaagdyk / Zed Pics here.

 

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