by Jennifer Bryce
Musica Viva, Sitkovetsky Trio, 22nd March, Elisabeth Murdoch Recital Centre
This concert reminded me of the difference between listening to a technically excellent recording of a piece and being present at the performance. On this occasion it was really important to be there in the auditorium of the recital centre.
The Sitkovetsky Trio came together seven years ago at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England – they are three brilliant young soloists. One might wonder whether their individual ambitions as soloists could compromise the ensemble, but the players rise above this and their virtuosity enhances their music –making. I found this particularly evident in Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, the final item in the concert. I’ve never before heard it played with such clarity and brilliance. It also occurred to me during the performance that such music could only be composed for the modern piano that was at Beethoven’s disposal; dynamic contrasts are so significant.
A work that was new for me was Smetana’s Piano Trio in G Minor, Opus 15, written in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, before the discovery of antibiotics. His four and a half year-old daughter, Bedriska, had died of scarlet fever. The piece starts with a lone violin. According to the program notes, Bedriska ‘could sing wordless melodies with just intonation; she knew all the pieces played in the music school, and the names of their composers’. It seems that some of these phrases are woven into the work, which comes across overall as an expression of profound grief.
The third piece on the program was ‘The Village’ by Carl Vine, who happens to be the artistic director of Musica Viva. It was commissioned by Julian Burnside QC in honour of Vine’s 60th birthday. ‘The Village’ represents the network of people with whom we communicate and the significant effects that these communications have for an individual. On first hearing, my main impression was of phrases taken up, repeated and transformed yet still retaining a central coherence.
I usually don’t like encores because they can diminish the impact of a concert program. On this occasion the Sitkovetsky Trio played a slow movement of a Mendelssohn trio – I think it is in D Minor. It was utterly beautiful and I was happy to go home with that music swirling around in my head.