Concert – Brave New Worlds, Melbourne Recital Centre, Salon November 24, 2015

Lisa MacKinney – Limelight Magazine

Melbourne’s Sutherland Trio is named for distinguished Australian composer and all-round musical trailblazer Margaret Sutherland, and pays tribute to her legacy in several significant ways. Over half of Sutherland’s compositions were chamber works, reflecting her long-standing commitment to writing for small ensembles; she also championed emerging composers whose works explored new techniques and forms, and Sutherland exemplified high-calibre musicianship of international standing. Since forming in 2010, the Sutherland Trio has maintained a busy concert schedule, performing regularly at the Melbourne Recital Centre and the Iwaki Auditorium.

Tonight’s performance of Charles Ives’ Piano Trio was instigated by cellist Molly Kadarauch (Californian, now resident in Melbourne and a former member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra). Her colleagues were initially unconvinced, as she explained in her introduction to this work, but thankfully this was short-lived. Completed a century ago, the Trio is replete with highly original experimental techniques now accepted as standard, including polyrhythms and polytonalities. Fascinatingly, Ives’ father George was a bandmaster during the American Civil War, and taught his musically-inclined son important skills that included playing the piano in one key while singing in another. Although much of his compositional output remained unperformed during his lifetime, Charles Ives received significant accolades in the final decades of his life from Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter and Bernard Hermann, among other musical luminaries.

Ives’ Trio is an American modernist journey through his time as a music student at Yale University in the late-nineteenth century, incorporating American folk tunes, hymns (Ives was an organist) and fraternity songs, skewed and elongated for humorous effect – in fact, the Presto second movement is called TSIAJ (This Scherzo is a joke). It’s not all in-jokes and wonky songs though, and the Sutherland Trio navigated the work’s twists and turns with spirited excitement and exuberance, guiding their audience through to an expansive and lushly lyrical final movement.

Ives’ Trio was paired with another by a composer who also had a tremendous interest in American folk traditions: Antonín Dvo?ák, director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City in the 1890s while Ives was at Yale. But in this work, the Piano Trio No 3 in F Minor, it was to the Czech heritage of his homeland that Dvo?ák looked for inspiration. Pianist Caroline Almonte spoke movingly of her Czech lineage as she introduced this passionate, intensely emotional work, which Dvo?ák began writing shortly after the death of his mother during a time of personal anguish and artistic conflict. The second movement uses a dumka, a Czech dance, and the final movement is also based on another dance, the furiant (fiery in character), emotionally charged with dramatic pauses and reignitions. The playing was uniformly excellent, with violinist Elizabeth Sellars soaring through Dvo?ák’s lyrical lines, and Almonte particularly at home here, leaping warmly through the thrilling rhythms.

The Sutherland Trio was most impressive in this thoughtfully conceived and deeply personal programme, exquisitely performed and with great passion.

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Concert: Sutherland Trio ‘Symphony in Yellow’ at Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre on 23 April,  2014

Reviewed by Clive  O’Connell

Thanks to a change in program, this year’s recital from the Sutherland Trio was a more mainstream affair than anticipated. While Bent Sorensen’s Masque of the Red Death was put on hold until August, the title work by Swedish writer Britta Bystrom made the most contemporary sounds of the event.

Taking its impetus from a Wilde poem, a sequence of images gleaned from observing the Thames in 1881, the symphony in three short movements gave each player a crisp, pointillist vocabulary, Caroline Almonte’s piano deftly exploited across its compass, although any correspondences between imagery and sounds proved elusive.

Ravel opened and closed Sutherland’s offerings.

Almonte outlined a lucid Ondine. Pretty well all the multiple technical hurdles that dot the score were negotiated without mishap, the final page’s coruscations suitably rapid and elegant. Complementing this solo, violinist Elizabeth Sellars and cellist Molly Kadarauch outlined two of Bach’s Inventions, oddities in this night’s context, but the executants’ twin lines cleanly articulated and balanced.

Ravel’s great A minor Trio gave all players a solid workout, the first two movements treated with more heft than usual. The work’s core Passacaille gained from the group’s sober approach, and the performers worked to excellent effect in the ecstatic finale.

Reviewed by Heather Leviston

A shared passion for literature is the thematic focus of Sutherland Trio’s 2014 Local Heroes concert series, Heather Leviston reports in her review of Symphony in Yellow, presented at Melbourne Recital Centre on April 23.

Life does not always run to plan, however, with practical reading matter taking precedence over literary masterpieces; illness has caused a postponement of Bent Sørensen’s Masque of Red Death until August. Despite this shift in emphasis towards more standard repertoire, Sutherland Trio’s opening program for 2014 made for stimulating and highly enjoyable listening.

Works by Ravel bookended the program with “Ondine” from Gaspard de la Nuitproviding a link to fairy tale as well as to the Salon’s undulating waves of Percy Grainger related words and symbols sculpted into the walls. According to Caroline Almonte, who introduced the works in her customary enthusiastic and welcoming manner, Grainger was inspired by Albert Park Lake. Almonte’s assured fluency not only captured the sparkling brilliance of the piece, with its playful cascades and rippling laughter, but ensured that the audience followed the story line as well. Her eloquence was rewarded with sustained applause.

Although Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor furnished a couple of literary connections in terms of inspiration from Malaysian poetry and its central role in Sauret’s film Un Coeur en Hiver (The Heart in Winter), it was Swedish composer Britta Byström’sSymphony in Yellow that was most closely related to literature. Inspired in part by Oscar Wilde’s 1889 poem of the same name, her ten-minute trio in three movements uses impressionist elements to evoke some of the character of the three stanzas comprising Wilde’s poem with its yellow bus, barges of hay and Autumn leaves on the Thames. Bathed in yellow light, beautifully controlled playing revealed a work full of rhythmic interest and dynamic contrast. The piano sometimes sparkled against repeated glissandos, punctuated silences with insistently repeated notes or gradually faded away after moments of lyricism from the strings. This work from 2003 has a coherence that is immediately discernible in the hands of such committed and imaginative players but, as with most new music, needs further exposure to be fully appreciated.

The element of story took the form of a contrapuntal conversation between two voices for two of J. S. Bach’s Two Part Inventions, arranged for violin and cello. An elegant reading of the Invention in E Minor was followed by a dancing Invention in G Major. Making sparing use of vibrato, Elizabeth Sellars’ violin and Molly Kadarauch’s cello were very well matched, producing a dialogue of satisfying equality and balance.

A careful matching of tonal quality was also very much in evidence in the most substantial work for the evening: Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor. A popular cornerstone of piano trio repertoire, it can be magical when players are in complete accord, as they were here. At times, it was necessary to rely on sight rather than just sound to determine when one stringed instrument ended and the other began – an indication of the high degree of sympathy between these skilled musicians. Although Sellars played with the polished lightness and refinement of tone that the piece requires, there is also a generous texture in her sound that is tremendously appealing and blended beautifully with Kadarauch’s cello.

With a first movement that was marked by swinging forward momentum, all three players created the uplifting atmosphere that makes the work so special. After a vigorous dance flavoured movement, Almonte’s slow piano introduction was joined by an equally soulful melody from the cello and then the violin. Beautifully shaped and deeply expressive, this was playing of considerable expertise and sensitivity. Ever the supremely attentive chamber musician, Almonte also excelled herself in realising the joyful shimmering of the final movement. With its abundance of pizzicato passages and trills from the strings and final triumphant piano chords it made for a thrilling conclusion to the program.


Concert: Sutherland Trio ‘Songs of the Night’ at Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre on 25 September,  2013

Virtuosic trio rise in solidarity

Reviewed by Clive O’connell

A wealth of experience shines in the confidence of their address, a co-ordinated balance of output and the players’ consistency of interpretation. Opening the ensemble’s final recital this year, the firm melancholy of Lili Boulanger’s D’un soir triste worked well to illustrate their strengths, particularly the ringing solidity of Kadarauch’s line and Almonte’s ability to explode into dramatic dialogue.

The short-lived French composer’s meditation made an apt prelude to American composer Richard Danielpour’s song cycle Songs of the Night, four settings of Rilke sung by tenor Daniel Todd. Todd has an enviable clarity of delivery in notes and text that enriched the songs, technical demands, such as the high entries for each stanza of the opening Love Song, carried off with bravado, shown in the unaccompanied strophes that begin Lullaby and the muted rhapsody of the cycle’s conclusion.

Chausson’s G minor Trio enjoyed aggressive treatment after its dour Pas trop lent. Almonte was kept busy with a vigorous part and Kadarauch projected with relish her instrument’s powerful solos, while Sellars showed to best advantage in the work’s most energetic passages.

Sutherland Trio – Songs of the Night

There was much to admire and little to fault in this performance by the Sutherland Trio. Opening the program was a piano trio version of Lili Boulanger’s D’un soir triste, a substantial single movement work that forms a diptych along with D’un matin de printemps. The piece is lugubrious and fatalistic given the context of Boulanger’s approaching death at just age 24. The dark tonal contours were crafted with spacious solemnity and exactitude of ensemble that allowed the foreboding atmosphere to wander freely yet always remain as one between these three players. There was seemless, if not exquisite melodic interplay between Kadarauch’s cello and Seller’s violin, dark in the respective tenor and alto registers of their instruments, insistent on carrying the torrid climax but devoid of unnecessary or affected emotional mannerisms. Added to this, is Almonte’s incomparable sense of ensemble: at times her pianissimo so discrete as to emulate the gasps of sadness vaguely conscious in the darkness of the string writing.

For Richard Danielpour’s Songs of the Night, tenor, David Todd joined with the Sutherland Trio. Danielpour is a Grammy-award winning composer from New York. The text of this song cycle from the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, explores the darker recesses of the psyche. Caroline Almonte explained that the influences of Lennon and Bernstein permeate the psyche of this New York composer and that this particular work seems to revisit the musical idioms of Stravinsky and Bernstein. The tessitura of the vocal writing often lay just outside the usual range creating a certain stress – evidently deliberate – to enhance the text. Todd sung this demanding work with clear diction and poise and presented as an intelligent singer with an expansive musical understanding of this difficult composition.

Chausson’s rhapsodic Piano Trio in G minor Op. 3 was played with equal brilliance and sensitivity. The opening movement ‘Pas trop lent’ recalled something of the dark mood of the Boulanger but quickly flowered into a breath-taking piano concerto, although Almonte, always discrete, never let the piano virtuosity take centre stage.  The jocularity of the second movement was adroitly captured as was the delicacy of the slow third movement.  The last movement was full of blazing flourishes, sometimes Lisztian, sometimes like Cesar Franck or even Brahms. Again the musical interplay between Sellers and Kadarauch was quite marvelous.This composition was an excellent choice, illustrating not only the group’s virtuosity but also their inherent musicianship and ensemble capabilities.

The Sutherland Trio is without doubt a fine ensemble – technically exceptional, musically mature and artistically adventurous. Their series program for next year, Playing on Words, looks every bit as enticing as this recital.

Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre June 23, 2011

(The Age, Clive O’Connell)

THE chamber music field in this city is spoilt for piano trios ; Benaud, Firebird, Seraphim, Anima Mundi, TrioZ, the slightly off-centre Ensemble Liaison — all present well-attended subscription series recitals engaging and often informative. Thursday night brought an addition to the ranks, an ensemble named after Australia’s chief female composer, Margaret Sutherland . Like half the major local trios , the Sutherlands are very familiar faces: Caroline Almonte, a popular concerto soloist and the piano half of Duo Sol; Molly Kadarauch, ex-cellist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra; Elizabeth Sellars, the

go-to violinist based at Monash University, filling a gap some years ago for the TinAlley String Quartet.

As expected, the new ensemble showed few chinks during their inaugural program. Opening with a bracket of night music, the musicians made a moving and resonant experience of Schubert’s Notturno, notable for its animated middle section. Then came a brief violin/piano nocturne from 1944 by their namesake, typical Sutherland in its idiosyncratic melodic path and wry harmonic progressions. Ernest Bloch’s Three Nocturnes demonstrated the group’s collegiality, if hardly stretching the members’ technical powers.

But the evening’s most arresting performance came in Rebecca Clarke’s Piano Trio of 1921, a powerful and richly expressive work, speaking in a most individual and confident voice. A prominent violist, Clarke’s compositions were sadly neglected even before her death in 1979, but the Sutherland personnel have done her — and us — great service by bringing this work into the light.

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