Tres Cordes String Trio
29 March 2018
Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch
Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd for the Christchurch Mail
Immediate freshness in the string trio
three members of Tres Cordes are all prominent members of the
Christchurch Symphony Orchestra but today they got their chance to
show another side of their playing talents as a string trio. It is
not an uncommon combination but it is seldom featured on the concert
circuit, which is a pity because it affords the listener a quite
different experience. Without the doubling an extra violin provides
or the harmonic bolster of the piano, the medium of the string trio
has an immediate freshness and Tres Cordes scored a direct hit with
their overall sound. One of the great things of beauty in this
combination is the distinctness and clear definition of each
individual line and Tres Cordes achieved this throughout.
The programme showed a similar degree of thought, selections ranging from Schubert to present-day New Zealand, with the pieces growing more intense towards the end. I enjoyed the Schubert Trio in B flat for the finesse of the playing and the great communication that went on between the players. In a similar vein, Abel’s Trio Sonata no.1 was light and bright to start and busy to finish with a simple but effective slow movement in the middle. Like the Schubert, very listenable.
Anthony Ritchie’s Easter Melancholy appeared to draw its inspiration from plainsong and it certainly captured the sadness of the season. Each part took the meandering melody for a spin with various accompanying ideas developing alongside. A clever little piece in a performance that created a most definite atmosphere.
The final two pieces were great choices. Cathy Iron’s own arrangement of Piazzolla’s Milonga en re was sinuous and intense, giving the players a chance to fully immerse themselves in a quite different style of playing. The milonga had all the fire and flair of its successor, the tango, and the trio captured this spicy flavour well.
Finishing what was a very polished performance, the Romanza and Rondo, from von Dohnányi’s Serenade in C Major, gave us an intriguing work that started with a rhapsodic viola solo before flowering into a passionate outpouring where it was difficult to believe there were only three players on stage. An impressive performance and a great introduction to several unfamiliar works – I look forward to hearing what Tres Cordes come up with next time!
The first half of the cleverly constructed programme – Baroque in style – introduced the audience to unknown but scintillating works by Sardelli, Pichl, Kleczynski and Cambini, as well as the more well-known Haydn Divertimento No.4 in C major.
The second half started with a stunning Dotzauer String Trio – his Opus 111 in E minor. Unsurprisingly, as Dotzauer was a cellist, this came across almost more as a cello concerto than a trio, with brilliant virtuoso cello playing from Tomas Hurnik.
Dohnanyi’s Serenade Op.10 – one of the great masterpieces of the string trio literature – provided a perfect finale and opportunity for all three players to demonstrate their high quality technique and interpretation.
Ritchie’s Easter Melancholy, sandwiched in between and recently arranged by the composer for the Trio, provided a lovely contrast with its contemporary but accessible feelings and moods.
The trio – Cathy Irons (violin), Philippa Lodge (viola) and Tomas Hurnik (cello) – played throughout with masterly energy, coordination and passion.The concert was organised by the Aroha Music Society.
Cathy Irons (violin) with Barry
Brinson (piano and organ).
8 May 2015
St Augustine’s Church, Cashmere.
Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd for the Christchurch Mail
CLASSICAL MEETS JAZZ WITH SUCCESS
I really enjoyed last year’s concert by Cathy Irons and Barry Brinson and, from the size of the audience, I wasn’t the only one eager for a second helping. Those expecting jazz, as Brinson explained, may have been a tad confused as this concert would probably be best described as classical with a strong seasoning of jazz. Whatever, it turned out to be eminently listenable and interesting.
It may not have been the obvious crowd-pleaser but my pick was Jerome Kern meets J.S. Bach, with two very clever pastiche transcriptions of Kern’s All the Things You Are and Pick Yourself Up (both neatly translated into German for good measure for that “authentic” feel). I admit I’m reviewing it with my composer’s hat on, but this was really intelligent stuff by Brinson, the duo playing with just the right amount of tongue in cheek!
The opening Vivaldi Concerto in A minor for 2 Violins was another intriguing choice, with the second solo violin part taken by the organ, as well as being the continuo. Irons played beautifully, sailing through many intricate passages effortlessly. I did feel, however, that with the organ needing to bring prominence to the other solo violin part, the balance was sometimes not achieved and cohesion was subtly tested.
Svendsen’s Romance in G was played superbly and the use of organ was inspired, giving the violin an almost orchestral backdrop to play against. Irons’ playing was well controlled, lyrical and perfectly sustained.
Heifetz’s arrangements of tunes from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess was trickier than it appeared, with plenty of double stopping for the violin and Brinson (now on piano) giving I Got Plenty o’ Nothin’ the Rhapsody in Blue treatment. This was a terrific programme choice.
Closing the concert, Gade’s Jealousy (Tango) had a lovely sinewy feel, some sparks in the violin to set it off then one of the great tunes of the genre to send us away humming.
"...The performance was nothing short of amazing, saturated with so much character and commitment from the two violinists."
Ray Watchman, The Guardian
15 August 2013
Classic Concert Series: Cathy Irons and Barry Brinson
From the outset, the audience realised it was in for an energised evening of extraordinary music-making as the duo unpacked a wide-ranging programme of compositions ancient and modern. But nothing had quite prepared those present for the next two items, Handel’s Sonata IV in D Major for violin and harpsichord, and Fritz Kreisler’s spectacular Praeludium and Allegro for violin and piano.
Irons played the Handel in Baroque style then switched effortlessly into modern technique for the Kreisler. In a term, her playing was jaw-dropping, her musicianship and mastery of her lovely instrument defying any other description. Gasps of “wow” could be heard from the audience as this duo turned on sonic fireworks that dazzled all with their brilliance – in a venue that proved ideal for recitals of this nature.
The second half of this eclectic recital was launched by a charming rendition of the children’s story, Ferdinand the Bull with Brinson narrating and Irons playing the descriptive musical setting by English composer Alan Ridout. Ferdinand might well have been sniffing the flowers, but Irons and Brinson, in Spanish hat and white tuxedo, certainly had the audience eating out of their hands.
The brilliance continued with Brinson switching into jazz mode to play Alec Templeton’s 1938 swing composition Bach Goes to Town on the harpsichord before rejoining Irons for George Gershwin’s Three Preludes for Piano transcribed for violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz.
John Williams’ Theme from Schindler’s List is to my mind a profoundly sacred work, and was treated as such by this duo, with Irons’ violin line hovering contemplatively over the piano accompaniment. The silence maintained by the audience for some time after the closing notes died away speaks for itself.
Back on the St Andrews’ pipe organ, Brinson treated us to his own interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic, Blue Rondo (Alla Turk) before bringing the recital to a stunning finale with Vitali’s Chaconne in g minor – described in the programme notes as “truly a concert tour-de-force of epic proportions.” A fitting close to a concert by this visiting (and we hope returning) duo who endeared themselves to the audience as much through their human warmth as through their stunningly versatile musicianship.
Stephen Fisher, Manawatu Standard
10 August 2013
Classic Concert Series: Cathy Irons and Barry Brinson
...Often heard, Fritz Kreisler's popular Praeludium and Allegro is at risk of becoming overplayed, but in the hands of these musicians the work had superb strength. Outstanding attention to the subtle details provided a glorious interpretation, and commanded the audience's attention and deep appreciation....Violinist Cathy Irons treated us to solo works by Bach, but her performance of Ridout's Ferdinand the Bull with Brinson's narration was a charming highlight from an empathetic and expressive performer.
Together, these two provided an outstanding example of ensemble playing, most particularly evident when Brinson, from the overhead gallery at the rear of the church accompanied Irons who performed at the front of the church for the concert's concluding work- Vitali's Chaconne in G minor. This beautifully balanced performance was again characterized by inspirational muscianship, bring the audience to their feet expressing their obvious delight...
22 May 2013
The Christchurch ensemble Tres Cordes gave a lively and rewarding performance at the Concert Chamber on Sunday.
Committed playing by the violin, viola and cello trio brought out elegance and high spirits from a programme which included four trios from the classical period.
The Trio in B flat major by Paul Wranitzky, a contemporary of Haydn, abounded in graceful melodies and the ensemble exploited these well, even though they had some tonal problems at the start.
Tres Cordes again made sure that fun overflowed from both Haydn’s short String Trio in D major and the Allegro movement from a youthful Schubert's incomplete B flat major Trio.
Splendid co-ordination and attack by the players gave Beethoven's Trio in D major richness and intensity.
A concert highlight was Easter Melancholy by the New Zealand Composer Anthony Ritchie. The work's depth and power, a continuing sense of foreboding, and a wide range of contrasting moods all combined to make a gripping performance.
Dohnanyi's early 20th century C Serenade in C major, was like a tribute to classical trios, but with modern twists in its harmonies and was especially attractive as all the instruments had repeated chances to shine.
We were lucky enough to have a visit
from Cathy Irons today. Cathy is part of the Christchurch Symphony
Orchestra Outreach Program. This program visits kindergartens and
primary schools and actively engages the children in interactive
performances, to enrich and broaden children’s views and concepts
of music. Cathy played her violin and shower the children that if we
listen carefully we can move our bodies in different ways to music
(walking, running, and jumping on the spot!). She tested their
knowledge of instrument names, she showed them the different parts of
her violin (taking her bow apart) and explained to how it works. She
also read the children a book called “Louie the Tui Learns to
Sing,”: which showed the children that our voices are another
instrument we can utilise.
The children were mesmerised when Cathy played her violin, and responded with Wonderment and Awe at the different experiences she provided for them. Having Cathy visit us, was a magical experience and I hope that she can visit again sometime as the children discovered the beauty of music played when by a gifted musician.