The Morrison Music Trust is doing good work in its promotion of
recent New Zealand music. Here we have six works by six composers
written for piano trio.
John Psathas’s Island
Songs score highly for the piano dance patterns of the first
and for the slow pizzicato and treble glint of the second with
its corollary, vehemence and tense speed in its “trio” section.
Above all perhaps there’s the Bartókian wildness of the last
song, a motoric-sounding dance. Victoria Kelly’s Sono dates
from 2000. The limpid dreamscape evoked reflects the Portuguese
word Sono, the desire to sleep - mentally rather than physically,
the notes say. A repeated piano figure lulls – and represents
the “real world” - but there’s great space around and between
the notes, with string lines getting more and more aspirant
– lower case – is a contrast to the Kelly. Michael Norris admits
to having been influenced by Wolfgang Rihm and in its jagged
and abrupt way his piece has certainly absorbed something of
Rihm’s Jagden und Formen. There are also more yearning
and reflective moments but the static is soon followed by unison
A Feather Of Blue is once more a total contrast. This
is a case of Norris’s German influence being immediately confronted
by Grenfell’s French. The colour-glint and precision are painterly,
the textures also embracing the Eastern; Ravel is a strong influence
one feels but the dextrous bowing colour is a tribute to Grenfell.
This is a fine piece, prismic and evocative.
is represented by her 1999 piece, solidly and unambiguously
called For Violin, Violoncello and Piano. It was written
in the final year of her Masters Degree and is suffused with
expression. It opens deceptively with a certain reserved austerity
but soon grows in dramatic and fractious thrust until we hear
an almost manic drive. The jagged individualism of the three
lines is notable as is the exhausted sense that we have reached
some kind of uneasy resolution.
Finally there is
Ahi (Maori for “fire”) by Gareth Farr, who has appeared
on MMT discs before. Farr is something of a dapper dude and
he spins some surprises here. The four-movement piece - opening
with a Trio - embraces some rather simple nineteenth century
lyricism as well as sweeping gypsy flourishes in the Scherzo,
to which one can add a dash of Bartók. The Interlude returns
us to the delicacy and warmth of the opening whilst the Finale
has gamelan-like outbursts before once more returning us to
lyrical certainties. Rather an odd work.
The New Zealand
Trio play with remarkable assurance and they are well recorded.
Biographical notes are accompanied by comments from the composers
themselves. The pick of the six is the Grenfell.