Brave New World
4 April 2012
So we rolled in expecting a nice quiet ride in Firebird’s vintage Bentley. Wrong! This was indeed brave new world stuff – for the Trio and for us.
Aaron Copland’s "Vitebsk for Piano Trio" had no hints of “Appalachian Spring”. It’s been described as ‘from the early "austere" period of the composer's development’. I can't say I liked it but I’d liked to hear it again, this time to look for the Jewish theme.
I decided Charles Ives had been to a State Fair to research his trio and stood outside the music tents. In one, a gospel choir, in the next negro spirituals, in anothert, a woman paying SATB hymns and folk songs - all playing at once. But his trio is more than randomised quotes. It is clever, biting, witty, dissonant, wonderful music.
Wednesday night's crowd roared approval and I even called, sotto voce, “bravo” (f) – or should it be “brava” (m) or even “bravissima” (vg) because here Firebird were in absolute control and gave us spine-tingling music. But was it ok to laugh at Rock of Ages, for eg? The movement is labelled TSIAJ but it was clearly horrendous to play. Roger Jonsson couldn’t smile like the others. He just staggered off for a couple of shots of akvavit.
Benjamin Martin’s trio take of Stravinski’s Firebird was superbly written and superbly played This was not, like so many trios, piano with string continuo. Like the Ives that preceded it, the was no place for anyone of them to hide. Again, I was convinced they knew it, they loved it, the made it sing.
Beethoven Op. 1 No. 1 was the other piece they made sing. It was obviously BNW for the Viennese – not Hayden, not Mozart – but for us it is familiar. Firebird made it new again, and here too we heard all the lyrical - if acerbic - beauty.
The encore, at the beginning, was an erudite soliloquy by Dr Barry Jones (who else would do?) on the Huxley and associated dynasties.
Technically, Firebird were very much at home with the music as was Dr Jones with the history. And both were a joy to listen to. More! Bravo(a)!