Time travelling with Trio Sonorité at the 1901 Arts Club

Trio Sonorité’s programme took the listener back in time from a brand new piece to a Trio by Beethoven, via music by Milhaud and Colin Riley

The livestream concert has become a normal part of our musical life in this year of lockdowns and closed concert halls. Of course the format cannot replace a real live concert, with audience, but it does at least allow a greater number of people to access the performance, and also at a time which is convenient to the viewer.

It was good to have a distraction from the anxiety of the latest restrctions by government and Trio Sonorité’s concert from the lovely 1901 Arts Club provided the perfect diversion. I’ve attended many concerts and other events at this lovely, intimate venue, and its small size means that even without a live audience, it’s possible to enjoy a special closeness with the musicians. That Trio Sonorité really enjoy playing together was evident from this performance of an interesting and varied programme.

This trio, comprising clarinettist Özlem Çelik, cellist Daryl Giuliano and pianist Jelena Makarova, create diverse and intriguing programmes which combine new or lesser-known music with more familiar repertoire. The Trio also collaborates with living composers to premiere new works, and this concert opened with The Edge of Time by Lithuanian composer Rūta Vitkauskaitė. Originally scored for orchestra and choir, the piece has been reworked for the trio, and this world premiere performance included projected visuals by artist Aimee Birnmbaum. Music and visuals combined to create the overall narrative of the work.

Opening with a shimmering introductory section, the music progresses through different states and dimensions – from a punchy, rhythmic passage to a more dreamy section (with some particularly haunting interplay between the three instruments) – before reaching a major ending at The Edge of Time. The combination of instruments works very well here and each is given the opportunity to reveal their particular strengths and also use some extended techniques to create specific timbres and effects. It was an arresting and intriguing opener and demonstrated how well these three musicians cooperate as an ensemble.

This was followed by Darius Milhaud’s Suite Op. 157b for violin, clarinet and piano, arranged for cello by Daryl Giuliano. It proved a good contrast to the opening piece, with its appealing melodies and shifting moods, and Trio Sonorité gave a spirited, characterful performance.

Colin Riley’s Heads on Sticks followed, a piece premiered by Trio Sonorité in August 2019. Part of an ongoing set of lyric chamber pieces for small ensembles, it takes a small chord fragment from Kid A by Radiohead, interspersed with a lively rhythmic motif. A short, aphoristic piece which once again allowed all three instruments to reveal their individual and collaborative strengths.

The concert closed with Beethoven’s Trio, Op 11, included in the programme to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.  An  early chamber work which employs what was then a novelty instrument, the clarinet, it opens with a bouncy, expansive first movement leading to an elegant, cantabile middle movement, and a finale of nine variations based on a popular aria. The overall mood of the work is urbane, relaxed and cheerful, with some playful, piquant touches – the perfect close to this interesting and varied concert, and Trio Sonorité gave an engaging and lively performance.


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