Fire’s On – the Streeton Trio

Part of the Prelude in Tea program;  Independent Theatre North Sydney; 25th August 2019

Reviewed : August 25, 2019

Photo : supplied

A Prelude in Tea is a series of musical events presented in the Independent Theatre – ‘preluded’ by a decadent afternoon tea! Cream cakes, gateaux, tea, coffee and fresh orange juice! A delicious entrée to any concert, but particularly to this one. The Streeton Trio’s name pays tribute to Australian artists Arthur Streeton. Fire’s On  cites his famous painting smoke rising from a mineshaft.

With an image of the painting projected as a backdrop, the trio – violinist Emma Jardine, cellist Eliza Sdraulig and pianist Benjamin Kopp – presented very different works by Russian composers Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Arensky.

Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No.1 In G Minor, Kopp told us, was unpublished for some time because of its similarities to the work of Tchaikovsky, but Rachmaninoff’s  injection of  “love into the piece” was evident in the energy and expressiveness of all three musicians as they played.

Photo : supplied

Kopp’s explanation of each of the movements in Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E Minor cleverly prepared the way for the changing moods and tempos of the music, which was then skilfully and sensitively presented by the trio. The high pitched “artificial harmonies” of the cello in the first movement were a stark contrast to the instrument’s usual mellowness. It was interesting, but strange, to hear the tautness of those notes in contrast to the lower notes of the violin and piano.

The second movement was more melodic – though Kopp described it as “sarcastically joyful” – the third and fourth movements brighter and more emotionally pleasing. Each movement showed the skill and energy of the performers, their perfect synchronisation and their evocative reaction to the music as they played.

Arensky’s Piano Trio No 1 in D Minor was brighter and more lilting, evoking a more complex emotion, trills merging to more powerful repetitions of the motifs as fingers flew and bows swept, making this final segment of the program excitingly memorable.