In a concert from their 2023 'Homeland' series, NZTrio take us to homelands in Guangzhou, Romania, the Faroe Islands, Aotearoa and Bohemia with music by Chen Yi, George Enescu, Antonin Dvořák... and the extra special item is the world premiere of a new work by Auckland composer Victoria Kelly.
CHEN Yi: Tunes from my home
Chen Yi was born in Guangzhou in 1953. She has an extraordinary life story which involves time doing forced labour in the countryside, carrying 100 pound loads of rocks up and down a mountain. In the precious moments away from the work, she would quietly practise her violin and down the track she became concertmaster at the Peking Opera.
After the Cultural Revolution ended, she went to university to study seriously and she became the first Chinese woman to graduate with a Masters in Music among the famous ‘Class of 1978’ that also included the composers Tan Dun and Bright Sheng. Chen Yi now lives and teaches in the United States.
She wrote this trio for her fellow Chinese-American pianist Xun Pan and says of the piece:
“Both Xun Pan and I are Cantonese in origin and it's natural for me to speak in my native tongue in our trio, to make him smile and feel ‘home’. I got the inspiration from the folk Cantonese Music. In the first movement … the music is happy, energetic and celebrating, with a quiet middle section; the second movement, Nostalgia, is a fugue in delicate and sensitive expression; and the final movement, Happiness, is a celebration to happy occasions.”
ENESCU: Piano Trio in A minor
George Enescu (1881 - 1955) wrote his only piano trio in 1916. But the score was lost soon after and not found until 1965, when it had a single performance and then it was lost again! It emerged again in the 1990s.
He was a contemporary of Hungarian composer Bela Bartók and joined him on his expeditions around Romania and Transylvania recording folk music onto wax cylinders. For both composers, folk music was to remain a constant source of inspiration. And so it is in this trio.
As Charlotte Wilson points out in her programme notes though, "The other influence of this trio is undeniably French. Since he was 12 years old, Enescu's other home was always in Paris, where he studied with Fauré and Massenet, encountered Impressionism and Indonesian gamelan, later in his life becoming excited by collaborations with Ravi Shankar. You hear that in the first movement, with its delicate wash of sound and subtle rhythmic shifts. Then the folk-inspired variations, always with perfect interplay between the instruments, and unabashedly romantic Fauré-like finale."
Victoria KELLY: Lyre
The composer writes:
“My grandmother, Kitte Andreasen, was born in the Faroe Islands – a tiny basalt archipelago that nestles in the vast expanse of the North Atlantic ocean – halfway between Iceland and Norway, 18,000 kms away from Aotearoa. Kitte migrated to New Zealand with her mother and siblings in the early 1920’s, after her father – a decorated Faroese sea captain and member of parliament – was lost at sea. Our written Faroese family tree goes back to the 1500’s, although our lineage most likely extends back much further, to when the islands were first settled by Vikings and Norse Irish people in c.900 AD.
The Faroes are astonishing in their beauty and strangeness. I travelled there with my family in 2019. Their isolation is tangible, like a tone in the air. Because of their extreme climate, the islands have no trees. They are frequently bathed in dense fog which appears and disappears with miraculous speed, as if inhaled and exhaled by the sea.
In Greek mythology, Sirens lured sailors to their deaths – singing to them from islands (said to be the Sirenusas off the Amalfi coast). Sirens are often depicted in sculptures and paintings playing lyres. Lyres are also present in the folk traditions of Norway (the Kraviklyra), Iceland (the Langspil) and the Shetland Islands (the Gue) - the nearest bodies of land to the Faroes - as are dulcimers and bowed stringed instruments (the Hardanger).
In this piece I explore the lure of islands, and the promises and dangers they hold. I imagine the sea as a colossal lyre accompanying their voices, connecting them across vast distances – giving, claiming and transforming life, offering visions of possibility that may or may not materialise. The horizon is always in view, with more islands beyond sight.
The piece quotes a traditional Faroese hymn (Kingosangur) – Jeg Stod Mig Op En Morgenstund / I Got Up One Morning. It also explores elements of Scandinavian folk music. The music evokes the hypnotic rhythm of waves; the illusion of the horizon; the angularity and starkness of the Faroe islands; the rich colours of the surrounding seas; the hope of a new life and the longing for an old one; and the ways in which places (and the journeys towards those places) shape people and identity.
Lyre was commissioned by NZTrio with support from an anonymous patron, as a birthday gift for a man of the sea.”
This is the world premiere performance.
DVORAK: Piano Trio No 3 in F minor Op 65
Joy Aberdein writes in her programme note:
"[Dvořák’s] Third Piano Trio (1883) is probably the most dramatic of his four piano trios; symphonic in scope and elegiac in character, it is intensely expressive. Dvořák’s mother had died the previous year and its emotional Slavic themes communicate an aching nostalgia contrasted with moments of brightness and even defiance."
Recorded in Auckland Concert Chamber by RNZ Concert, 24 September 2023
Producer: Tim Dodd
Engineer: Adrian Hollay