Morgenstern Trio & Christopher Moore reviewed in The Australian

Intense start for Morgenstern Trio
Mark Coughlan, The Australian
April 22, 2013

DC5279_2376_Morgenstern_Trio_-®Keith_SaundersIt was in music of brooding intensity that the Morgenstern Trio was most impressive in this opening concert of a national tour for Musica Viva.

This young, prize-winning, German piano trio came to prominence in the 2007 Melbourne Chamber Music Competition and has gone on to win accolades around the world. Joined by Australian violist Christopher Moore, the concert featured two works for piano trio and two for piano quartet.

The program began with Mahler’s only surviving chamber music piece; a piano quartet movement that seems to have sprung from the influence of Brahms and Schumann and is quite unlike the mature works for which he is known. A restrained but highly charged performance created a powerful impact, imbuing the music with an undercurrent of simmering restlessness.

Beethoven’s piano trio op 70 no 2 is an unusual and striking work and proved to be a perfect companion piece to the Mahler. The trio excelled in characterising its shifting personalities, playing with finely-honed ensemble and a keen sense of musical drama. The intimate moments were delivered with delicate finesse while the climaxes rang with symphonic grandeur.

After interval, the Piano Trio by Australian composer Ross Edwards seemed a little out of place in a program of 19th-century German romanticism. Perhaps sensing this anomaly, the trio performed the work in an overtly romantic style, creating a luscious sound world but, especially in the first movement, lacking some rhythmic precision. After a deeply expressive, beautifully played slow movement, the finale came across as somewhat unsatisfying, structurally and musically.

With Schumann’s grand piano quartet, the ensemble returned joyfully to their heartland repertoire. Smiling at each other in between movements, the players were clearly relishing this opulent, surging music. Tempos were on the brisk side but clarity and detail were never lost, especially in the quicksilver second movement where pianist Catherine Klipfel impressed with her agility and crisp touch.

There were times, however, when more tonal weight from the piano would have provided greater breadth to the overall sound and occasionally violinist Stefan Hempel under-projected his part, leaving some gaps in the texture. Both Moore and cellist Emanuel Wehse played with a fluid, warm tone, their sensitive lyricism used to great advantage in an understated but lyrically intense slow movement. A slightly unsettled yet highly spirited encore by Brahms was a fitting conclusion to this exciting performance.

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