Concert Review: Pianissimo, Quiescence, Requiem, Scherzo, Trio
Pianoforte Lim Yan
Violin Lee Shi Mei
Cello Lin Juan
30 Sep 2015 . Sat
Esplanade Recital Studio
Beethoven “Kakadu” Variations
Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2
Schubert’s B-Flat Piano Trio
In a preview (if you will) of their 9 Oct performance as part of the inaugural 2015 Singapore International Festival of Music, this combination featuring local stalwarts and an expansive program was embraced by a conservative turnout on this Wednesday evening. Despite the modest, albeit loyal, audience, the trio shone in their debut(?) collaboration and crafted several magical moments within these two short hours.
First up would be the variations on a then-popular theme “Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu” (Eng: “I am Mr Cockatoo”). A fairly lightweight and now-forgotten tune, it was likely composed much earlier in Beethoven’s career then subsequently revised into a much more robust set. A critic noted it’s lack of unity, but what it lacks in cohesiveness it makes up in breadth of scope. From the gravity of the slow introduction, to the classical levity of the main body of variations, to the fugal retrospection of the later sections, the trio took all challenges in their stride, with only the slightest hint of a disagreement of momentum with the cello opting to push the pulse and the violin preferring giving the phrases full value of lyricism. Apart from a sprinkling of clearly tricky sections (that other ensembles also appear to have trouble with), there was little left wanting from the trio’s experienced prowess moving from molten sound to articulate aristocracy.
The anchor work of the evening would not be the titular one, intriguingly enough. Dedicated to his good friend Ivan Sollertinsky, Shostakovich’s second attempt at the medium would a devastating portrait of both statistical and individual tragedy; in comparison, the first was a student work of romanticism and relative lyrical beauty. A haunting and deceptively (read: terrifyingly) difficult cello solo of harmonics set the opening otherworldly atmosphere, within which an endless, fruitless search ending in dissonant dead-ends seems to take place throughout the first movement. An exuberant, almost manic Scherzo, played to nail-biting intensity without any sacrifice in line-building, swung bipolar from consonance to dissonance in both major and minor modes. Following trudgingly, the semi-fugal Largo began to display the trio’s uncanny blended ensemble soundscape, leading attaca to the blazing finale reminiscent of the famous movement in his 8th string quartet.
As dessert to cleanse the palate of the gravitas, the Schubert was certainly the sunny finale of the evening to look forward to. Semi-repetitive but not yet to a fault, the sweet melodies were distributed simply (not finely woven) through the three musicians, and were executed to an exquisite precision of rhythm and musicianship. The coalescence of magic arrived in the Andante, when that legendary moment when that every ensemble seeks manifested, and the trio sounded as one organism, one pulse, one multi-threaded line. A dainty Scherzo-Trio and a devilishly-dotted Rondo later, the trio wrapped up this neat package of brilliance and dulcitude.
Looking forward to yet another successful concert on the 9th of October, and to many more successful and creative collaboration from this promising group in the future.