Seraphim Trio with two special guests bring some little-played 19th century pieces to the stage for a concert about collaboration and celebration. This Sydney concert featured three pieces, a short Schubert and then the title pieces from Korngold and Schumann.
For a special treat for the Sydney and Ballarat concerts of this tour, Seraphim Trio opened with a short piece from Franz Schubert titled Notturno. Starting quietly with Anna Goldsworthy on the piano, the trio eases the listener into a gentle rain storm of sound. Goldsworthy is the dripping raindrops on a smooth pond surface, Helen Ayres is the quick whipping of wind through the trees, moving from sweeping branch movements to sharp leaf tips cutting the air, and then the cello, played by Tim Nankervis, is the swelling, rolling storm cloud pumping across the horizon. The piece even mirrors the way a storm surges and abates into just the tinkering piano notes are the only thing left behind.
Andrew Haveron joins the trio on violin for the second piece, a suite by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Haveron explains the impetus to perform this suite stemming from a conversation he and Nankervis had about recommendations for repertory pieces. Haveron has been playing Korngold since his student days, and the composer hasn’t seemed to grow in popularity since then. His work is most known for its influence on the early days of Hollywood when he was composing film scores and, it’s said, his work was a great aspiration for some of the best film composers of his day and later. This piece was specifically commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, which accounts for the piano section being played entirely with the left hand.
Korngold’s suite definitely displays some of that classic Hollywood tone and it’s reminiscent of film scores you’ve grown up listening to with their grand dance sequences and hugely dramatic climaxes. Korngold’s opens spookily with an ominous piano hollowed out with Nankervis’s cello. Overtop the violins are romantic and tinny, sometimes plucking to mimic footsteps over the pounding piano. The romance continued into the second movement where the contrast between the high violins and low piano are more greatly emphasised. The racing playing of the strings created a tension that would mellow into a looser and more casual atmosphere. Here is where Korngold’s cinematic tone really came through for the suite.
Movements three and four built up drama again, reminiscent of the first movement, before the synthesis of sound concluded the suite. The final movement brought all the instruments together in a grand and resounding conclusion to the narrative of the overall suite. Of all the pieces played in this concert, the Korngold told the most gripping story, for sure.
To close out the concert, the now quartet became a quintet with the addition of Jacqui Cronin on viola. The viola is a wonderful companion to the string set, finding the middle ground between cello and violin to round out the sound while also adding its own buzz to the mix. Ayres introduces the last piece by Robert Schumann as coming from the period when he began composing after being fed-up with introductions as Clara Schumann’s husband. The piano quintet comes from 1842, Schumann’s chamber music year, and is meant as a celebration of friends and collaboration in music. The piece was relatively conventional and felt rather flat and slow after the drama of Korngold earlier. The four movements were beautifully played and the growth of the trio to a quintet produced a vibrant, round sound even if it was an anti-climactic conclusion.
Seraphim Trio will play Schumann Quintet and Korngold in Ballarat on October 31st and in Melbourne on November 1st