The audience attending the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre was treated to a riveting variety of chamber works (including some well beyond Beethoven’s era) performed by the violin, cello, and piano trio comprised of Andrew Sords of Ohio, Luke Severn of Australia, and Canada’s own Cheryl Duvall (Toronto) recently.
Opening the evening was young artist Craig Matterson with two piano solo selections, the great Nocturne in C minor Opus 48 No. 1 by Chopin, and the favorite Bells of Moscow Prelude in C# minor by Rachmaninoff. The 20-year-old pianist, no stranger to both classical and jazz performance, enraptured the audience with his finely-honed dynamics and (especially in the Rach) carefully poised yet punctuated moments of surprise drama. The NOCCA Steinway concert piano responded perfectly to his ultra-sensitive touch.
First on the Sords – Severn – Duvall Trio programme was Brahm’s 6th Hungarian Dance in Db, in which we were immediately struck with the flair and ease that these musicians could portray the energetic jauntiness, quirky nature, and warmly personal characteristic of the third musical B’s happier of peasant dances.
Smoothly hosted by Sords, the listeners were next introduced to a selection from Beethoven’s earlier and easier period of life, his Trio in C minor, the key in which Ludwig “always meant business.”. The rendering was clean, tight, and dramatic – the trio movement especially being darkly playful, giving the sense that the Grumpy L.van B. may have often had a twinkle in his baleful eye. The Finale prestissimo was slick, syncopated, satisfying. Overall a superior performance.
A radical change in compositional era followed with Severn’s own “…when the world was young” for cello and piano. In a word, stunning. The drama between a piano played (and masterfully so by Duvall) to its fullest emotive extent, and a cello being nothing short of a personal extension of its owner’s body, carried the audience on a tonal ozone expedition like no other. It wailed, it danced, it whispered from the heart of an 11-year-old child … yet it also proclaimed truth from the soul of an adult who sees things from a new and passionate viewpoint.
Finishing the first half was a suitably passionate display of Romany Freneticism with Ravel’s Tzigane for violin and piano. Pulled off with aplomb and panache by Sords’ and his dramatic posture, the music caught the whole audience up in a trance of drama and delight. The incredible pianistic skills of Duvall left the listeners still panting as the house lights came up for intermission.
The entire second half consisted of an incredibly mature and engaging performance of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio – in Sords’ own words: “If one were to attend church, musically speaking, then let the slow (third) movement be your entrance into worship.” And indeed, it was a long, heartfelt, and deeply transcendent moment of musical reverence. The skill required to play through this whole four-movement masterwork and maintain, to the last chord, its grace, strength, and depth of human portent was not lost on the listeners as they were carried into the very heart of Beethoven’s musical self.
Ending on a splashy note, the Trio elected to give an encore of the Scherzo (musical joke) by Shostakovich. Indeed, a virtuosically fun and fantastic way to end a full-bodied evening of chamber music from the best.
Matt Arnott is with the North Okanagan Community Concert Association