Trio Dali

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Published: 28th November, 2016

With Trio Dali one feels generously included in the concert experience and, just as importantly, that the music is treated with respect and an unerring sense of direction and emotional purpose. A recent performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre brought a relaxed camaraderie between the three members as the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall provided a sterling backdrop for trios by Mendelssohn, Roger Smalley and Schubert. Paris-based Trio Dali exudes an easy flamboyance and a sophisticated understanding of the trio medium, so common in European ensembles that visit these shores.

Mendelssohn’s 2nd piano trio in C minor is often neglected in favour of his other trio and unashamed crowd favourite, the Op.49 D minor trio.  In this outing of the C minor, the intensity of Jack Liebeck’s violin impressed throughout, with peerless articulation coupled with a finely nuanced vibrato adding to the overall richness. Amandine Savary’s piano was often in the foreground in the first movement Allegro energico, taking quite some adjustment before Christian-Pierre La Marca’s dark cello tone was allowed into the mix. As is sometimes the case in this superb venue, the natural sustaining power of the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall means some “wash” of sound is in danger of cloaking the less immediately reactive lower strings.

Balance issues had been resolved by the Andante and I was particularly struck by Trio Dali’s lyricism, always sensitive and spontaneous and with a lovely singing lilt.  An impish Scherzo impressed for the tight ensemble and sheer fun to be had with the material. So often the swift changes between sections can be clunky in less experienced hands, but not here. Likewise the Finale was played with equal amounts of agitation and tenderness, notable for the perfectly judged Chorale section from Savary and Liebeck, who revels in darker timbral possibilities.

Roger Smalley’s 1991 Piano Trio takes as its starting point eight extremely chromatic bars taken from Chopin’s Mazurka in A flat major. Structured in two parts, the opening Prelude struck this listener with a certain sinking feeling, dripping with semitones. The affect was one of a weary melancholy. An impassioned Scherzo pushed the dynamic to the limit with its jagged edges and a ripe energy. The second section, opening with some frankly creepy plucked notes from La Marca, then ramped up the virtuosity within more striking harmonies than its predecessor. Fleeting glimpses of an erstwhile forgotten harmonic memory channeled Chopin, rather like a radio tuned in to the static between neighbouring stations.

After interval Trio Dali’s Schubert was blisteringly good, proving they are interpretive heavyweights. Each player gave wholly to the music, amplifying the intimate details of the music with a deft balance of articulation and dynamic range. Amandine Savary showed her expertise in the second movement Andante with perfect husbandry and a well-honed understanding of the pianist’s supportive role. Dali’s Scherzo was willfully rambunctious, unafraid to say something at every turn. By the fourth movement Rondo I was aware of a fixation on the minutiae of every phrase at the expense of the larger architecture, a fairly common interpretive habit in these long Schubert works. An enthusiastic crowd was rewarded with Haydn’s Gypsy Rondo as an encore, proving without doubt Haydn’s wicked sense of humour, and even more of that signature Trio Dali rambunctiousness in a fitting end.

Our reviewer Josephine Vains attended the Trio Dali performance in Melbourne on Saturday November 19, 2016.