Paul Wright (violin) Sacha McCulloch (cello) Faith Maydwell (piano)

Christ Church Grammar School Chapel

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Despite its wealth of melody and episodes of stunning, high drama, Tchaikowsky’s Piano Trio in A minor is only very seldom heard in live performance. More’s the pity. I dare say the formidable demands the work makes on the players are a factor militating against frequent airings.


Then there’s the material making up the work which can cause musical indigestion. It’s an over-abundance which calls to mind those giant hamburgers that are periodically advertised by fast food stores where a single serving contains enough meat, cheese and bacon to make two or even three ‘normal’ hamburgers. So, with one important reservation, is Tchaikowsky’s Trio. Unlike the burgers, however, Tchaikowsky’s Trio is far from injurious to health.


It’s a work brimming, indeed overflowing, with frankly magnificent concepts. But, like that giant hamburger, there’s simply too much of it to be taken in on a single occasion, not least because it brings a very real risk of musical indigestion.


This notwithstanding, the Magellan players did the work proud. Their level of ensemble is most impressive as is their staying power. Indeed, nearing the close of this marathon work, the players sounded as eloquent and stylistically assured as in the work’s opening moments. Passionate intensity and magnificent tone colourings – whether in episodes of dramatic boldness or moments of gentle, introspective reflection – were pointers to highest musicianship, the players invariably loyal to the composer’s seemingly limitless inventiveness.


Earlier, we listened to the first public performance of Duncan Gardiner’s A Thousand Cranes Beat Their Wings. It has a delightful, orient-tinged immediacy, written with a very real understanding of instrumental potential, as in a beautifully soulful cello utterance early on.  Whether couched in gently melancholic terms or moments of intensity, it’s clear that Gardiner has something worthwhile to say in instrumental terms. A Thousand Cranes deserves to be taken up by other musicians. I’d like to listen to it again – and again.


I am quite sure I am not alone in looking forward to this splendid ensemble’s next program.


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