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Alan Cooper Reviews: Fidelio Trio

In association with ST ANDREW'S CATHEDRAL and ABERDEEN ART GALLERY & MUSEUMS LUNCHBREAK CONCERT SERIES


FIDELIO TRIO
DARRAGH MORGAN: Violin
ADI TAL: Cello
MARY DULLEA: Piano
SINÉAD MORRISSEY: Speaker
ST ANDREW’S CATHEDRAL, ABERDEEN
Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Fidelio Trio is a Piano Trio of International repute. They play music ranging from mainstream classical to the contemporary side of the repertoire in which they are specialists. It was from this contemporary repertoire that they chose all three pieces they were to play for soundfestival in St Andrew’s Cathedral at lunchtime on Saturday. We had already heard violinist Darragh Morgan as a soloist in the Maritime Museum but now it was as a member of this fabulous precision outfit that we were to enjoy his playing.

Their first piece was a UK première; it was Blockhouse by the American composer, Zack Browning. It was Mary Dullea’s precise and energetic piano chords that first seized my attention. There was a certain aspect of minimalism in this piece but I would probably call it “post minimalist” because the minimalism was more of a background feature. Rhythm was foremost from all three players. The music was apparently composed using the technique known as “Magic Squares”. There was something mathematical perhaps even mechanical (not in a bad way) about it. I was reminded of composers like Stravinsky or Bartók whose music often had a similar mechanical energy within it. This piece was the most instantly attractive of the pieces performed by the trio.

The second composer, Donnacha Dennehy, originally from Ireland but now working in the USA, was a pupil of Zack Browning. His piece entitled Bulb was much more openly minimalist. This sort of music might seem simple but it is fiendishly difficult to play and also requires special close up attention in listening. At first glance (or whatever is the sound equivalent of that) it could appear to be just repetitive – all the same – but it was nothing of the sort. Changes in texture, pitch, dynamics, phrasing or on the piano, touch, ran throughout the piece. I know that my next comment in describing such pieces has become something of a critic’s cliché but Bulb was indeed a kind of musical kaleidoscope in which all sorts of musical colour changes were a constant source of fascination.

The final piece in the concert was Up By The Roots by composer Piers Hellawell with a spoken text by Sinéad Morrissey who was with the Trio to deliver her spoken part of the performance. The work, in three sections, deals with a very contemporary theme, the unwelcoming atmosphere that foreign migrants have today, (especially in England). One of the pieces that Fidelio have in their repertoire along with other musicians is Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. This very piece was performed recently in the City by The Scottish Ensemble and it is a favourite of mine. I sensed some of the textures of Schoenberg’s music at several points in the piece especially in the violin writing however while Schoenberg provides a warm and ecstatic ending in this piece the transfigured night is quite other than that. The merging of music and spoken text reminded me of another favourite Schoenberg piece, the final section of the Gurrelieder. In this piece however the rhythm of the speech did not blend into the music. I suspect this was deliberate since unlike both of the Schoenberg pieces Up By The Roots does not really have the same happy or comfortable end.

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