VIAF 2014

So young … so talented!

Yesterday’s Trio Aura performed an intellectually demanding programme to an appreciative audience at the Aula Mgr G. Farrugia. Between them, the trio add up to 54 years and saying that the level of their interpretation left us totally impressed would be an understatement.

Hitomi Derow (Clarinet), Levan Stülpnagel (Violoncello) and Marcel Mok (Pianoforte) are a formidable ensemble who clearly have a promising career ahead of them, both as soloists and as a Trio. Winners of the coveted EMCY prize, the musicians projected a technical competence and, more importantly, an emotional and intellectual engagement with the works performed that went far beyond their teenage!

Starting with Muczynski’s demanding Fantasy Clarinet Trio op. 26, for clarinet, violoncello and pianoforte, the Trio straight-away plunged into the work, making short shrift of the technical difficulties that the piece presented. Playing with confidence and a calculated assurance that never bordered on the complacent, they sailed through the work easefully.

Next came Shostakovich’s D Minor Violoncello Sonata op. 40, a work that, typically for Shostakovich, fluctuates between the superficially sardonic to the profoundly painful. I always sense there’s something terribly tragic and intensely painful in Shostakovich’s writing and this can be discerned in the work performed during this concert. In this work, the pianist was as much a thoroughly sensitive ‘accompanist’ as he was a forerunner in his own right. Establishing a remarkable rapport between them, the work shone in all its glory – whether in the frenetic fast movements or the lyrically beautiful slow moments. A truly profound interpretation!

Last but not least, Brahms was represented by his gorgeous Clarinet Trio in A Minor op. 114. Brahms is as multi-textured, multi-layered and lush as a metaphor – the more one uncovers the more meanings emerge.

In the first movement, marked Allegro, a fairly straightforward sonata form grows out of a simple rising arpeggio and descending scale that grow into a complex contrapuntal web that is sustained throughout. A particularly sensitive use of colour and register combinations between the instruments characterized the second-movement Adagio; the entire movement is constructed of subtle rearrangements of two basic ideas. The third movement is marked Andantino grazioso and, indeed, grace and elegance were the yardsticks against which performances should be measured – and such it was by the Trio Aura. The main section of this typical dance form came across as a lovely and nostalgic Viennese waltz, while the Trio section frolicked and skipped an Austrian Ländler, the forerunner of the waltz, replete with yodelling clarinet. This short and exciting rondo finale, an Allegro, is in Brahms’ typical gypsy idiom, with its mixture of three-against-four rhythms and colourful minor-mode harmonies. It is the only movement of the Clarinet Trio that could be considered virtuosic, and, as such, the musicians gave an emphatic ending to end the work decisively.

The audience greeted the end of this concert with sincere and strong applause and the Trio regaled us with an encore, this time, Piazzolla’s Invierno porteno.