Sinfonietta Hall, Forte Academy
Saturday (9 September 2017)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 11 September 2017 with the title "Spellbound by promising trio".
Say hello to Singapore's newest chamber group, Trio Simeatri, a pun on the word “symmetry” derived from its members’ surnames. Comprising pianist Sim Yi Kai, cellist Eddie Sim and violinist Meah Tze Chuan, the trio's debut concert brought together two great piano trios in the united keys of D major and D minor.
Beethoven's Trio in D major (Op.70 No.1) began arrestingly with all three musicians in unison for its invigorating first movement theme. Immediately the sense of each player listening intently to his or her partners was established, this being the essence of chamber music that was to distinguish the evening's fine fare.
Both violist Meah and cellist Sim's intonation were spot-on and their tone refined, balanced by pianist Sim's sensitivity on a mellow and not over-reverberant Yamaha grand which made for mostly pleasurable listening. Occasionally some of the brilliant articulation on the piano got obscured but that did not occur in the eerily sombre slow movement.
The string lines were minimally accompanied, with the piano's frequent quiet tremolos providing an otherworldly atmosphere. The spectral comings and goings, as if taking place in a graveyard, were drolly captured, thus fully living up to the trio's nickname of “Ghost”. This spell was soon broken in the busy finale, with a return to buzzing normality.
A good start, and there was barely a break for a breather before the threesome launched into Mendelssohn's Trio No.1 in D minor (Op.49). Any reticence in the opening work was soon dispelled in the work's full flush of fiery Romanticism. This is Singapore's most often programmed of piano trios in recent years, but there was no hint of routine in this performance.
Pianist Sim was in the thick of things, his florid and scintillating piano part being the trio's most demanding share. Not only did he overcome its taxing passages, he also had to do his own frantic page-turning as the appointed page-turner had more or less given up with the lightning pace of the proceedings.
All this did not faze the trio which made light of the technical difficulties. There was however a respite in the slow movement where the strings' singing lines made this one of Mendelssohn's most memorable of his patented “songs without words”. Then they shifted gear for the feathery lightness of the Scherzo, which took flight on fairy's wings.
The finale was a joyous affair, with the plum melody going to cellist Sim (above), who was certainly not going to spurn the big moments it offered. The hour-long concert was attended by a full-house in this small and intimate venue. That the many children sat quietly transfixed through its entire duration demonstrated the absorbing power of music and the musicians. More is hoped from this very promising new piano trio.