United Kingdom Arensky, Ravel: Fournier Piano Trio (Chiao-Ying Chang (piano), Sulki Yu (violin), & Pei-Jee Ng (cello), Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, 15.11. 2012 (PRB)
Arensky: – Piano Trio No 1 in D minor, Op 32
Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor
An increasing number of new pianos emanate from the Far East and, apart from the main leaders in the field, like Yamaha or Kawai, they often tend to choose a brand-name with a decidedly Germanic flavour, like Reid-Sohn, perhaps to bask in the reflected glory of a country known for the fine quality of its pianos.
The London-based Fournier Trio was formed in 2009, and despite taking its name from the revered French cellist, Pierre Fournier, its members are Taiwanese-British, Korean and Australian-Chinese respectively.
However, this superb young trio certainly does not need to enhance its already burgeoning reputation by adopting a European-sounding name, and is rapidly emerging as one of the UK’s leading ensembles of its kind, with Purcell Room and Wigmore Hall debuts under their belts already, a planned European Tour culminating in a recital at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and an Artist-in-Residence engagement at Wolfson College, Oxford.
All performers have to be ready for any eventuality, from a member of the audience falling ill to a mobile phone going off. The mark of any true professional is not to allow such a distraction to affect the performance in any way, and clearly this was the case with the Fournier Piano Trio, making their second visit to Plymouth in the 20th International Concerts Series.
When the trio first played here, they were truly impressive then. But their return now revealed a maturity in the performance, and an even greater insight into the writing, which so effectively combined the freshness and impetuosity of youth with a well-studied intellectual approach beyond their age.
They are, of course, first-class instrumentalists, but there has to be that added chemistry and empathy in such a closely-knit ensemble for everything to work so convincingly.
Chiao-Ying Chang is a formidable pianist – able to produce immense power from the instrument, yet equally capable of the most hushed pianissimo. Pei-Jee Ng (cello) has a glorious singing tone, and can produce the most subtle dynamic shading. Violinist Sulki Yu leads the trio with such assurance and faultless technique, while never simply dominating the ensemble – the art of a true leader, and something more instinctive, than just acquired.
Opening with Arensky’s Piano Trio No 1, the lush romanticism was there in every bar, yet never mere mawkish sentimentality – an easy mistake, yet crucial to avoid in such evocative writing. From the almost symphonic sound of the outer movements, the limpid quality of the scherzo and the heartfelt emotion of the Elegia, here was a masterful reading to cherish.
Ravel’s Piano Trio is, however, a more challenging work in every way, making even greater demands on each player, the pianist in particular. Yet the bristling technical difficulties were just cast aside in a wonderful performance which was all about the sheer beauty and variety of the composer’s writing and often exotic soundscape, but with the music at the forefront every time.
From the first bar of the Arensky to the tumultuous close of the Ravel, here was playing of the very highest order from a dedicated and talented ensemble that now has the proven potential to make a significant impression in what is still a crowded market-place.
Philip R Buttall