A Russian, a Chinese, and a German walk into a town hall. However, what they did next was not remotely akin to a joke. The Adelaide Town Hall hosted an evening of chamber music splendour as Musica Viva and the Adelaide International Cello Festival presented the Sitkovetsky Trio as part of their national tour.
Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin), Wu Qian (piano) and Leonard Elschenbroich (cello), appeared like the United Nations delegates of a chamber music convention, opening with Bedřich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, op 15. Composed after two of his daughters died within one year, of tuberculosis and scarlet fever, the trio in three movements is understandably thick with emotional anguish, and was reflected on the faces of the intense performers.
The concert highlight began with Carl Vine introducing his own Piano Trio ‘The Village’. Most people are lucky to just get cake, but in honour of Vine’s 60th birthday, human rights and refugee advocate, and arts super-patron Julian Burnside AO QC, gave something so much better; a commission for Musica Viva Australia.
‘The Village’ has twelve episodes of related melodies and harmonies, rather than formal structure or movements, and develops a central character through a continuous series of musical encounters. From the dramatic and beautiful opening, the pizzicato sections and exquisite dreamlike aspects contrasted feelings of lonely isolation within the network of relationships. Performed with sensitivity and masterful conversational style, ‘The Village’ is a triumph, was enthusiastically received, and left me wanting to visit Vine’s village frequently.
Leonard Elschenbroich then took time and care with well-chosen words to introduce Pyotr II’yich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, op 50. He explained the trio were looking forward to taking the audience on a journey with the elegy to Tchaikovsky’s friend Nikolai Rubinstein, who died of tuberculosis aged 46 in 1881. Doing exactly what they hoped for, the trio portrayed every inch of beauty and pain in a bitter-sweet, poignant and emotive performance; the elegiac theme, repeated to an extent explicable only by Tchaikovsky’s grief-triggered-obsession, never failing to leave its intended depressing mark.
Bookending with two elegies and leaving a concert emotionally spent rather than uplifted, had some around me commenting on the order of play, however, the Sitkovestky Trio performed with the military precision of a union with great history and familiarity, and their theatrical performances left a lasting impression of great joy.
The Sitkovetsky Trio will perform in Melbourne, Hobart, Newcastle, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth, Coffs Harbour and Armidale. For full concert information visit musicaviva.com.au/2014
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall, King William Street, Adelaide
Season: The Adelaide International Cello Festival runs 25 March to 6 April
Duration: 2 hours
Bookings: Adelaide International Cello Festival bookings