Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Amaya Piano Trio performs Mozart, Debussy and Shostakovich at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Jerusalem

Lea Tuuri, Lauri Rantamoijanen, Batia Murvitz
“The Best of Chamber Music” seemed the appropriate category for the Amaya Trio’s recent concert tour of Israel. This writer attended their concert at the Eden-Tamir Music Centre, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem on February 20th 2016. Members of the trio are pianist Batia Murvitz (Israel), violinist Lea Tuuri (Finland) and ‘cellist Lauri Rantamoijanen (Finland). The Amaya Trio was formed in 2011. Batia Murvitz and Lea Tuuri have collaborated since 2004, when they were students at Indiana University. Lauri Rantamoijanen joined them in 2011. The trio has performed in Cyprus, Austria, India and Finland, playing classical chamber music repertoire as well as contemporary music. A piece by Finnish composer Jens Linqvist has been commissioned by the Amaya Trio. “Amaya” is Japanese for “night rain”.

The program opened with W.A.Mozart’s Piano Trio in B-flat major. The artists’ interpretation of the opening Allegro revealed its thematic economy (and Mozart’s experimentation) and occasional surprises, their playing clean, communicative, both delicate and intense in its contrapuntal moments. A piano solo issues in the gracious Larghetto, in which Murvitz and Tuuri engaged in a moving dialogue, their playing of the final Allegretto movement moved between hearty energy and elegant subtlety; here, the ’cello was given a role of higher profile as Murvitz juggled the two separate voices carried by the piano. Here was Mozart’s salon music played with Classical good taste, a sense of wellbeing and mindful balancing of the joie de vivre and sophistication of Mozart’s mature chamber style.

We then heard Claude Debussy’s Piano Trio in G major (1880), the composer’s only piano trio. Written at age 18, its style not yet bearing the hallmarks of the composer’s later highly distinctive Impressionistic language, the work displays flair and youthful joy. Written during the summer the composer was employed by Mme von Meck (Tchaikovsky’s patron) to teach her children, accompany her 27-year-old daughter’s singing, play duets with von Meck herself and perform daily chamber music recitals, Debussy toured through central Europe with the family. The score was lost, to be found in Paris a century after it was composed.  It was the fantasy and imagination of the Amaya players that lent sophistication to their reading of the youthful work, as they gently flexed phrases, taking the audience into the sweeping Romantic lines of the opening Andante, contrasting fuller textures with “asides” and allowing each phrase to arise naturally from its predecessor. The players smiled as they presented the Scherzo, a jaunty, witty, quasi-macabre dance as a small theatre piece, framed by energetic staccato textures and offering fine solo moments in the middle section. The Intermezzo (3rd movement), bristling with sombre, songful melodies, was given an indulgent, tender and well-shaped realization by the strings against a light, sympathetic piano accompaniment. The artists gave the Finale, its mix of styles and erratic ideas just another enigma of the piece, a variety of rich timbres and moods, summarizing the wealth of ideas flowing from the young composer, these later to be sifted and filtered into Debussy’s Impressionist style.

Taking their leave from the exuberance of the Mozart and Debussy works, the Amaya Trio concluded the recital with Shostakovich’s Piano Trio no.2 in e-minor opus 67. Composed in 1944 and flooded with sadness on the death of the composer’s friend musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky and for victims of the Holocaust, the work is one of the most challenging and exposed of its genre, its germ the extraordinary, desolate and uncompromising opening notes, with the ‘cello (Rantamoijanen) setting the scene with overtones sounding above the violin. To me, the element creating the hauntingly estranged atmosphere of the work, providing a very active listening experience, is the constantly independent nature of each of the roles of the three instruments; the artists gave themselves to this convincingly. As to the cynical, unrelenting Allegro con brio - the feisty, intense 2nd movement peopled with demons -  the players tossed off its frantic-mirthful agenda with fitting energy. Then to Murvitz’ imposing presentation of the stark chorale (Largo movement), its weighty, deliberating (somewhat unpredictable) chords a joyless backdrop to the dissonance-infused conversation taking place between the strings, the fusion of these elements forming a tragic and heartrending canvas. And there was no soft-pedalling in the final movement, an Allegretto bearing what for Shostakovich were Jewish melodic and modal associations. Here, Tuuri gave her playing a folksy twinge. Rantamoijanen’s emotional involvement in the work added depth to the gripping musical experience.  With motifs of former movements appearing, the artists drew together the threads of one of the most tragic works of chamber music repertoire.  

The audience at the Eden-Tamir Music Center was enthusiastic in its response to this versatile, rewarding and well-balanced program. The Amaya players’ sincere and deep enquiry into works performed and their years of collaboration make for outstanding chamber music performance

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