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Benaud Trio – Homeland

by Suzanne Yanko

The Benaud Trio’s latest program features a major work by Smetana and a new one by Australian composer, Ross Edwards. Had I attended the Melbourne concert as a “critic” I would have had nothing for my editor that would justify the description, as there was, quite simply, nothing with which I could find fault. Not that I was looking to be disappointed – I have heard the Benauds play often enough to be able to relax and enjoy the music. As a reviewer, however, I have plenty to say. This concert was infused with a sensibility and synchronised musicianship that was extraordinary, even for the Benaud Trio. Ross Edwards’ Piano Trio began with solo piano, the elegiac subject again showing that Amir Farid is a consummate Romantic pianist. As if to even the score, the violin entry signalled a new subject and led to a duet with the cello that had echoes of the opening. Also referenced were Edwards’ earlier works – the Second Symphony and Maninyas, in a movement marked Allegretto, but with a slower, more contemplative sound. There also were hints of variations on the theme before the violin and cello resumed their duet – and their pace. A series of elegant broken chords from the piano introduced the violin, and a theme which seemed to reference Dvorak (or other eastern European music). The cello was also well exploited, by composer and performer, in this movement. (I noted that this section would be a very reassuring introduction to modern Australian music for anyone who might be scared of it!). To finish, several emphatic chords introduced a showy first section – classic Benaud territory. Violin and cello carried the melody accompanied by the piano’s series of broken chords and arpeggios, until the strong rhythmic ending brought keen applause from the audience. The major work in this Benaud Trio concert was Smetana’s first (and only) piano trio, completed (according to the program notes) just months after the death of his four-year old daughter. It seemed fair to link these events as it showed an inspiration far beyond the folk rhythms of Smetana’s homeland, heard in so many of his other works. The opening moderato assai had the theme articulated by the violin, with cello and piano introducing a characteristic harmony, Farid’s series of stunning chords giving the pianist the opportunity to exploit the resources of the Steinway. Even without knowing that the work was born out of grief, the listener would recognise that the cello and then violin played music that was heart-rendingly beautiful, and tinged with sadness. A furious energy then carried the first movement to a quieter phase: soft chords, pizzicato violin and a steady rhythm for the cello, before the solo piano reverted to an earlier Romantic style. The work progressed through a minor-key section, with the cello pizzicato lightened the mood, and a section for all players which gave the impression of a waltz (although it was in 4/4 time!). As always with the Benauds, the entires were in perfect synch – and at times the ensemble gave the impression of being a small chamber orchestra, so rich was the sound. The final movement was a roller-coaster from the outset, with a virtuoso piece for Farid and equally brilliant, almost furious string playing by Lachlan Bramble, violin, and cellist Ewen Bramble. Again, perfect timing was called for – and achieved. Yet another triumph for the Benauds. Benaud Trio – Homeland Melbourne Recital Centre

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