Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Adelaide Town Hall. 27 Sep 2017
At short notice, my ‘plus-one’ wasn’t able to join me for this concert but circumstances saw me give my spare ticket away to an engaging Costa Rican tourist whom I saw busily snapping away on his camera in the downstairs foyer of the Adelaide Town Hall and happily engaging with the theatre staff about the beauty of the building. He didn’t seem sure at first whether to accept my offer, but he did. During the interval we chatted and I learned that he was in town for the international space conference, and was presenting a paper on the performance of a machine in a micro gravity environment. Apart from his obvious intellectual prowess and exemplary English that would leave most Aussies in the slow lane, he also had a keen ear for fine music playing. I knew this when he commented that Amanda Forsyth played Beethoven and Chopin ‘with her entire body’. Amanda Forsyth of course is the cellist in the Zuckerman Trio, which is completed with the renowned Pinchas Zuckerman on violin and Angela Cheng on piano.
My new friend was of course quite right. Forsyth is one of the most talented and insightful cellists around, and her musicality and free spirit was on best display in Arensky’s Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.32. Up until this performance I had never heard this work live, and all I could compare the Zuckerman’s performance to was my superb recording by The Lenore Piano Trio on the Hyperion label. The Zuckerman’s found something fresh in this delightful composition, and Forsyth revelled in having the lion’s share in stating the delightful and numerous themes. The scherzo waltz-like second movement zipped along with humour and flashes of virtuosic chutzpah from all three instrumentalists. Zuckerman himself makes it look so easy. Cheng is a picture of calmness and precision, while Forsyth looks and sounds commanding - almost nonchalant.
The programme began with Beethoven’s Sonata No.1 in D, Op.12 No.1 for violin and piano. He wrote ten sonatas for piano and violin, with the later sonatas eclipsing the earlier ones for popularity and musical daring. Zuckerman and Cheng were clinical in their performance: the many fragments in the composition were clearly and emphatically stated, some with more resoluteness than others, and the spotlight passed seamlessly backwards and forwards between them both. Equals, as it should be.
Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G minor, Op.65, is a troubled piece. It is almost as if Chopin did not ‘know where to be at’ with it. Where the Beethoven almost luxuriated in the freedom of loosely related musical ideas, the Chopin is a relentless search for a narrative. It’s there, but it takes concertation to appreciate its delicacy, and Cheng and Forsyth laid it out clearly before us. Cheng’s precise phrasing and finely balanced dynamics gave Forsyth the perfect aural canvas to clearly expose the subtlety of Chopin’s musical scheme.
At the conclusion of the concert, my new Costa Rican friend said his goodbye’s and left the Town Hall to return to his conference to ponder the intricacies of human kind’s engagement with space, but I suspect he did so with a different ‘music of the spheres’ at the front of his mind, at least for a while.
When: 27 Sep
Where: Adelaide Town Hall