Macquarie Trio

(Conservatorium Theatre)


A piano trio is not an ensemble of 3 pianos on stage as an arts editor back in the eighties tried to inform me. They are however, a motley crew nine feet of piano with the power to outplay a pair of subtle strings.

Macquarie Trio Australia marvelously blends these mismatched resources, imbuing the mix with superb artistry and exacting ensemble, to the point where the listener forgets the constraints of the medium, and is instead able to focus on the music they present. Bravo Macquarie Trio Australia.

In this, their thirteenth year, the Macquarie Trio is presenting their fourth Brisbane season to an audience of enthusiastic subscribers who, we learned at the end of the concert, are wondering why the trio does not play as many recitals here as in other cities.

Venue availability, accessibility and ticketing policies (Brisbanes, not theirs) are the issues. In the meantime their successful recordings for ABC Classics the recent release of the complete Dvorak trios, the complete Brahms and Schubert sets as well as the entire Beethoven trios scheduled for next year will serve to keep their music alive.

But back to the concert, in the Conservatorium Theatre, that creaked and groaned again only when the audience became restive to the end of a long but engaging first half. It must be the seats.

Its not too often that one wishes for less in this world, but the Macquarie Trios generous programming would definitely have benefited by the omission of the first piece of the night. Richard Strauss Capriccio Dances are an oddity thats best left in the cupboard. The three dances in the French manner are written for the stage as an interlude in the composers last opera of 1942, and have none of the conversational intimacy that imbues other trios written with the chamber in mind. The music is an unrelenting barrage of tone to which Brahms assessment back in 1885 of a young Richard Strauss, music too full of thematic irrelevancies, could equally apply.

But their rendition of Mozarts Trio in C Major, K. 548 was done just the way I like my Mozart; sparklingly fresh, plenty of space between the notes and a mercurial mix of earnestness and humour, although cross accents in the opening Allegro imparted an edginess which needs gentle refinement.

The Brahms C Minor, Op.101 began with an explosion of passion that settled appropriately into a subdued rustling for the second movement. For the graceful Andante , the Macquarie Trio projected Brahms at his beneficent best and the performance finished with a display of piano prowess that at no time overwhelmed the equally strong strings.

Kathryn Selby is a master musician, always sensitive to the fabric of the piece. Her piano playing came with the right mix of support and power. Nicholas Miltons violin spoke with commanding vibrancy and Michael Goldschlager played cello that sang with embracing conviction.

Their reading of Dvoraks Dumky Trio was exemplary; an engaging blend of instruments that projected an immensely satisfying understanding of the architecture of a piece that can be so often a cloying collection of contrasting moments.

Macquarie Trio Australia returns to the Conservatorium Theatre on Friday, June 24. Put it in your diaries now.

— John Colwill
(Performance seen: Thu 3rd March 2005)