Monday, 5 April 2010

Living with... TRIO CON BRIO / Review

Living with…Trio con Brio
The Living Room, The Arts House
Monday (5 April 2010)

The first Monday evening of the month is Amateur Night at The Arts House. I don’t use the word amateur in the pejorative sense because the fellows fit to be called amateurs play music for the sheer love it, and not for the money. Classical music can be big bucks these days, especially if your name is Lang Lang, but for the rest of us, the joy of music-making is reward itself.

Tonight’s event was the début of Trio con Brio, formed by violinist Low Ying Ning (secondary school mathematics teacher, who also teaches music on the side), cellist Nguyen Huong Ly (cello instructor and Yong Siew Toh alumnus) and pianist Clement Huang (chemical engineer, and proud owner of the only Fazioli in Bukit Batok). The unusual 1-hour programme – Franz Schubert and Astor Piazzolla - could have only come from the instigation and connivance of one Phan Ming Yen, not the freedom fighter (see my article about Cu Chi Tunnels below) but former Programming Director of The Arts House.

What do Schubert and Piazzolla (left) have in common? Absolutely nothing, which was the beauty of it all. What the heck, just play it any way. So the intervals between movements of Schubert’s Piano Trio in B flat major (D.898) were interjected with Piazzolla’s tangos arranged by José Bragato. But did it work?
Yes, to a certain extent limited by the completely disparate styles of the music. Balance for the Schubert was more difficult to achieve, with the piano’s percussive timbre often overwhelming the strings. As a result the opening Allegro Moderato came off as rough and ready, but it got better as the work progressed. Then the first tango - Otono Porteno (Autumn) – was played, and the balance that was elusive in the Schubert was restored. With violin and cello matching the piano every step of the way, the music flowed more naturally.

The slow movement of the Schubert showcased genuine cantabile, while the Scherzo and Trio delighted in its somewhat parochial and ungainly moves. It is this naïve and bucolic aspect of the Austrian composer, rather than his Biedermeyer aesthete, that comes closest to Piazzolla’s earthiness and sensuality. It’s still a gulf in styles – Atlantic to be precise – but I’m trying my best to stretch things here.
And how the cello sang in Oblivion, one of my favourite tangos. Its long-breathed sighs could have lasted longer, before the jocular strains of the Schubert finale, a Rondo rounded things up. Here the playing was light and breezy, and the pianist reading from an electronic score, looked like enjoying himself the most. This was shared by a full-house audience (about 70-80 people), who mostly found it hard to refrain from applauding between movements.

The planned "encore" was the final tango La Muerte del Angel (The Death of Angel), with its edgy counterpoint and final lament. All and all, this Schubertiade on the equator was a satisfying evening of good music among friends.


margotlorena said...

Hi, actually it's Otoño porteño
or if you don't have the ñ you can just say Otono porteno I guess! I like the little piazzolla I know, specially Verano Porteño

Chang Tou Liang said...

Many thanks for visiting, Margot! As an Argentine, you've got Piazzolla in your blood! I'll make the change on the typo. Keep visiting!