NZ Chamber Soloists: 'Enterprising' concert

Thursday, 14 May 2015

by Alan Purdy, Taranaki Daily News

The music of leading New Zealand composer John Psathas featured strongly in the Composer Connections concert presented by Chamber Music New Zealand at the Theatre Royal on Monday evening.

The audience, including many young people, responded enthusiastically to this innovative programme played with exuberant dedication by the New Zealand Chamber Soloists.

Katherine Austin (piano), Lara Hall (violin) and James Tennant (cello) all teach at the University of Waikato and often include new works, especially by New Zealand composers in their concerts and recordings.

Rachmaninov's early Trio Elegiaque opened with eerie muted sounds from violin and cello before launching into lush impassioned melodies and piano bravura all performed with suitably youthful enthusiasm.

John Psathas has worked closely with these players, demonstrated by the complete confidence they displayed with extremely complex rhythm patterns and novel techniques.

Corybas (an orchid) had a feverish, driving perpetual motion throughout before a tranquil coda-like ending.

Inspired by Greek dance music three Island Songs reflected its energy. Violin and cello often shadowed each other, one with bowed notes, the other pizzicato, with relentless driving piano. Interaction between the players was superb, always feeding off each other's expressive playing.

Intensely passionate octaves from violin and cello led into the post-romantic style of Armenian composer Babadjanian's Piano Trio. The long violin melody with simple piano accompaniment in the slow movement was beautifully sustained. The piano shared much more of the limelight of the vigorous finale.

Two Psathas encores, a frenetic, venom-venting Tarantismo and an ageless, calm seascape, Aegean, completed this delightfully enterprising concert.