VIAF 2014

A most polished performance by the Cosmos Piano Trio

Yesterday evening we were once again regaled with a fantastic Trio, this time the Cosmos Piano Trio made up of Maltese musicians Godfrey Mifsud (Clarinet), Charlene Farrugia (Pianoforte) and Spanish horn virtuoso José Garcia Gutierrez. Knowing the sound reputation these three musicians have garnered and continue to build for themselves, there was no doubt that the audience was in for a treat!

What to my mind is a remarkable feat, apart from the obvious technical excellence they are endowed with, is the fact that despite them being strong, confident and masterful individualists in their own right, they blended so well as a Trio and this is credit to their sensitivity, sense of sharing and musical intelligence. There are many brilliant soloists who fail in a chamber group or in an accompanying role – it certainly was not the case yesterday evening.

Once again, as on the previous night, the programme was intelligently chosen, with the pianist (as always) bearing the onus of work. Starting with a delectable Trio Concertante by Czech composer Jan Sobek, Cosmos immediately made their mark as accomplished musicians of a high order. The work largely consisted on a re-working of Mozart’s much-loved aria La’ ci darem la mano from his opera Don Giovanni and, although it does not quite develop into a theme and variations paradigm it does grow into a bravura piece, especially on the clarinet and the horn.

The second work on the programme was Poulenc’s Elegy for Horn and Pianoforte op. 168, a piece that, in a typically French way, does upset any preconditions the audience may have had as to what constitutes an Elegy. Commencing more on a rhythmic pace that is reminiscent of a march (perhaps Poulenc’s gently ironic way of mimicking a funereal march?) the whole dynamic and tonal gamut on the horn was exploited by Gutierrez to full effect. This young horn player is masterful on his instrument and every time I hear him I realize what a very fine player he is indeed (and this despite the odd mosquito that seemed to have taken a fancy to him, or to the horn, and kept whizzing past his face!!)

Charlene Farrugia is one of the islands’ foremost pianists and, despite her young age she manifests assurance, leadership and command at whatever she does. The Scriabin Prelude for the Left Hand is not only difficult technically and requires absolute control even in a very physical sense but one that also tests the player’s interpretative capabilities. In this, young Charlene Farrugia betrayed a maturity well beyond her age and she managed to tease out a sonority that was most amenable to the work. Scriabin was followed by Pierné’s Canzonetta for Clarinet and Pianoforte op. 19, a work that gave one of Malta’s best clarinettists ever to show his mettle. With a recent memory of Godfrey performing Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Concerto lately, I seem to have reconnected with what I had left then … beauty of sound, superb phrasing and an almost disturbing ease with which he tackled range and tessitura. A wonderful execution, to be sure!

The final work on the programme was Reinecke’s Trio op. 274, which brought the three brilliant musicians together for a work that carried the bulk of ensemble playing for the evening. Easy transition between movements, playful exchanges between instruments, some extraordinarily fine playing on the pianoforte – this work brought a high-powered concert to a resounding close!