Fittingly, for a concert called Fairy Tales, Seraphim Trio made a last minute change to the order of pieces to be played. This gave greater prominence to the works that gave the concert its name, Janacek’s Pohadka (Fairy Tale) for cello and piano and Maurice Ravel’s Ma mere l’oye (Mother Goose) in a new arrangement by Benjamin Martin. Peter Goldsworthy’s Meditations on Mother Goose was an integral part of this arrangement and, like the Janacek, justified the program’s inclusion in the Trio’s wider series: Words & Music.
So the program as presented was:
Janacek Pohadka (Fairy Tale) for cello and piano
Ravel Ma mere l’oye (Mother Goose) World premiere
Dvorak Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor, Op. 66
A work for cello and piano, the Janacek Fairy Tale had the cello representing the prince and the piano Maria, daughter of the ruler of the underworld. There were no sinister or dark connotations in this work as presented, however, beginning with rippling arpeggios from the piano and pizzicato “comments” from the cello.
Pianist Anna Goldsworthy and cellist Tim Nankervis are fine artists in their own right, but their duets were as bewitching as the fairy tale they were conveying in music. Judging from that music they were many twists and turns in the tale. Out of a Philip Glass-like repeated motif came a sudden swell of sound for both instruments with a lovely cello melody emerging before the instrument experimented with staccato, pizzicato and quirky phrases. The piano’s role on many occasions was to produce an even flowing sound and, at times, a dramatic engagement with the cello. The ending came all too soon.
The second work, Ravel’s Ma mere l’oye (Mother Goose) was described as a world premiere, thanks to Benjamin Martin’s new arrangement, and the incorporation of Peter Goldsworthy’s “slightly bent, playful take on the fairy-tales”. This was potentially risky stuff – but it worked. The device of having members of the Trio as readers helped the seamless flow of music and words, and the writer’s ironic touch was as amusing as the music was charming.
Pavane of the Sleeping Princess matched an unhappy tale to a minor key, with rich harmony from the Trio. Little Tom Thumb deconstructed several fairytales in an amusing fashion, Helen Ayres’ resonant violin breaking through scales with the melody in a minor key. All three instruments appear to be “climbing” until the cello’s turn to play the melody, with the strings’ perfect timing a striking feature of this busy piece.
Third was Laideronette: Empress of the Pagodas, complete with a dragon that was (of course) secretly a king. Energy was the key until the cello introduced an Oriental-sounding subject, with violin and piano joining in. The ending with four striking chords showed the three players to be in perfect sync.
Beauty and the Beast again questioned the Cinderella story – and some others. This time the pianist had the dreamy waltz-like melody, picked up by the violin before an interchange between all three. Seraphim Trio seems to instinctively know how to achieve “an equal music”, never better illustrated than in this slightly frenetic multilayered piece with its gentle ending.
The final piece The Enchanted Garden had a story built on the rather unusual premise of a little girl in Adelaide leaving a tooth for the Tooth Fairy and thanks to her father’s carelessness never believing in anything again! There was dreamy sweet music to begin, all three players not just in harmony but in gentle understanding. And, as the story built, some dazzling runs – with the pianist bearing more than a passing resemblance to the heroine of the story!
The final work was Piano Trio No.3 in F minor, Op.66 by Dvorak, comfortably within the repertoire and accomplishment of this ensemble. But where Seraphim really takes wings is in its championing of new or re-imagined works, such as we heard on this enchanted evening.