Review by Judith Caldwell
The first in the current season of Five @ the First concerts was held on January 13th, 2018 featuring the AYR Trio – Angela Park, piano; violinist Yehonatan Berick,and Rachel Mercer, cello; and featuring a young artist, Albert Li. Albert’s brother- Tate, played cello here in 2016 when he was 12. This time it was 10 year old Albert who plays violin & piano and is fluent in four languages. He is tutored by Park and chose to play Alberto Ginastera’s Danzes Argentinas on the piano for this concert. It was a lovely piece which he played very well, took a bow and then bolted from the stage.
* He could not be lured back for another bow – much to the amusement of the capacity audience.
The AYR Trio then performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D major, the ‘Ghost’ trio. During the introduction Berick said he & Mercer had to drive rather than fly from Ottawa the night before thanks to our lovely Canadian weather, they arrived very late to find their gas had been turned off and it just seemed appropriate that his electronic page turner needed ‘help’ to work. After such a rocky start the Beethoven was wonderful. Berick said that at the time it was composed there was a very thick book written by Leopold Mozart containing all the rules of classical composition, but Beethoven decided they were much too limiting and instead threw them out and composed this gorgeous piano trio in three movements. The first and third movements are bright and happy and the Trio clearly enjoyed playing them. The middle movement, ‘Largo assai ed espressivo’, is dark, eerie, brooding, complex and gives the other movements their contrast. To some audience members this was the highlight of the day.
A very different piece followed, a contemporary composition by Canadian Andrew Staniland called Soltice Songs. The composer says that music is the poetry of sound and he wanted to evoke the place of solstices and equinoxes in celestial unity. The work is in three movements, the first was very evocative of sarsen stones standing in circles and interacting with the sun at the solstices. The second was darker and mysterious and evoked thunder and elemental power. The third was a very interesting and lively dance . The whole piece was very difficult to play, at times Park was using a pedal with her right foot, playing keys with her right hand & leaning into the piano to pluck strings with her left hand. The violin and cello parts were no easier. It was a really interesting piece but the sheer difficulty means it will not be played frequently.
At intermission the audience were divided about whether they loved it or were indifferent to it., no one seemed to really dislike it The final work was Johannes Brahms Trio No 2 Op 87 in C major. Brahms was notoriously hard on himself and consigned works he did not like to the fire. With this Trio he actually wrote to his publisher that he liked it – it ‘worked’. It is in four movements, a grand opening allegro that gets the positive energies flowing, a theme and variations in the Andante con moto that has an Hungarian cadence, a light, fluttery scherzo presto reminiscent of fairies or butterflies, and finally a cheerful Rondo featuring back and forth between the instruments. It was a beautiful piece to end an afternoon of brilliant musicianship. The next concert is February 10th , featuring Ensemble Made In Canada.