Review by Judith Caldwell
The Mercer-Oh Trio offered an afternoon of very interesting music in their 5 at The First series on Saturday afternoon. The concert began with Concertino #1 by Julius Klengel played by 11 year old Maya Grittani on cello, accompanied by EJ Kim on piano. Grittani’s playing was technically awesome, she will be a player definitely to be heard when she matures adding emotional colour & depth. Right now her rational approach is appropriate for her age and quite refreshing. She chose a piece difficult enough to show her mastery of the instrument without being overwhelmed.
The Mercer-Oh Trio – Gregory Oh, piano; Akemi Mercer-Niewoehner, violin; and cellist Rachel Mercer; then presented a Trio in E major by Joseph Haydn. In his introduction Oh said this was written after Hayden reached London to find himself something of a celebrity – much to his pleasant surprise. The allegro moderato is sweet and cheerful; the allegretto dark and dramatic; and the finale appears light but also has substance, depth and subtlety. It was as satisfying today as it must have been back in London in 1791. Then the main innovative piece – Le projet Mozart by Jean Lesage. This work is based on the Andante cantabile from Mozart’s Piano Sonata KV 330, but it is a repackaging which pulls it apart and restructures it strand by strand.
Mercer in her personalized introduction said it is like a kaleidoscope-of-time looking back to Mozart and I found that image helpful as the work seemed to travel through times of chaos and out to times of serenity. In one place near the end the notes were so spread out they seemed to be travelling through space like a probe. There was interesting use of hocketing throughout the work, even though this is usually associated with vocal works. After intermission the Trio offered us Piano Trio Opus 15 by Bedrich Smetana. This was written in 1855 shortly after Smetana had lost his 4 year old, musically gifted daughter to Scarlet Fever. It is a great romantic Trio which begins with darkness, drama and pain in the moderato assai; the Allegro lightens up and is lyric and gorgeous and the Finale contains a somber funeral march but ultimately ends triumphantly as the music defeats the pain of loss. It was a marvelously large showcase for the talents of the Trio, each of whom give so much talent, energy and commitment to their playing. This writer was pleased to see them play before an appreciative almost-full house.
The next concert in the 5 at The First series is on Saturday, May 30th at 2.30pm at First Unitarian Church on Dundurn Street, Hamilton.