Eggner Trio reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald

Conservative program gets a makeover
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 5 April 2011

IAN MUNRO’S Tales of Old Russia is a set of three picturesque musical contemplations on Russian fairytales as gathered by the 19th century collector Alexander Afanasiev.

The work is stylistically derivative – sometimes deliberately so, in the reference to Mussorgsky’s evocation of the witch Baba Yaga in Pictures at an Exhibition, and in the element of parody in the sardonic march of the third movement, which describes former soldier’s plucky victories over goblins and death.

More broadly, Munro has an approach to composition which is comfortable with sounding a bit like someone else. The second movement, The Snow Maiden, seemed to make reference both to the exotic elements of Rimsky Korsakov (who wrote an opera of the same name) and to the impressionist evocations of Ravel. The effect is one of genial and discursive stylisation.

In the other works of the program, the Eggner Trio showed the same mixture of empathy and musicianship that characterised their last trip here, and, to liven up what might otherwise have been a quiet afternoon of chamber music at the more conservative end of the spectrum, adopted the diva’s habit (though no less a diva than Cecilia Bartoli eschewed it in her recent tour) of changing clothes at interval from bright blue to shocking cerise shirts.

Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B flat, Opus 11, was honoured with the blue and started, in the first movement, with assertive and incisive projection of this work’s youthful brilliance. The string players played the slow movement with beautiful tone, if a somewhat static sense of movement. Though representing the composer in one of his darker, more serious moods, Dvorak’s weighty F minor Trio, Opus 65, earned the cerise shirts. The performance was forceful and committed though the last two movements were not fully sustained.

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