Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Piano Trio II

Well, something about piano trios must be in the air. Last night, the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music presented the Gryphon Trio performing piano trios by Mozart and Schubert, along with a movement from a much longer new work by Christos Hatzis. On the spur of the moment, we decided to check it out.

The opening Mozart trio (K.502) was intended for "friendly, musical, social circles," and retains an air of gentility, just three friends playing music together. The Schubert trio, his late masterpiece D.898, was also wonderful. Schubert reminds me sometimes of his folk music roots, which appeared most notably in a pizzicato cello passage in the first movement, along with almost gypsy-sounding chords from the violin. But for a new music junkie such as myself, the highlight of the concert was Old Photographs by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis.

Cellist Roman Borys preceded the Hatzis piece with some additional context on the parent work. Constantinople, an eight-movement work for piano trio and two singers (one trained in Middle Eastern and Arabic singing), also has a strong electroacoustic portion, is more musical theater than a concert piece. It has a strong link between the visuals and the music, analogous to the link between the three performers. Despite the inclusion of a Middle Eastern element, the strongest flavor of the movement played here was from Argentina. The piece opened with a beautiful piano melody, before the strings started accompanying with harmonies strongly resembling the music of Astor Piazzolla. Suddenly, the tempo quickened, and indeed all three player launched into a fiery and passionate tango. The three instruments participated in a back-and-forth dialogue, until in the climax the cello accompanied in double stops while the violin played a beautiful fast line over the top. It was a wonderful piece, and it makes me wonder what it would have sounded like in the context of Constantinople as a whole. According to Hatzis' web site, it has been recorded and is scheduled for release this month. A Gryphon Trio release of Canadian premieres containing this movement is available on iTunes, but this work is not available separately from the rest of the CD.