French trio reveals the delights of the marimba

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Trio SR9, the marimba trio from France on their first visit to Australia… masters of delightful communication.

Music / CIMF Concert 3 – “Shall We Dance”. Trio SR9. Fitters’ Workshop, May 4. Reviewed by IAN McLEAN

SATURDAY afternoon was busy in Kingston! It was an early arrival to soak up the atmosphere of the Connect and Participate Expo at the Old Bus Depot, including a chance to enjoy the dance stage, which featured clogging, belly dancing and flamenco as well as folk and swing dancing.

It was a pretty appropriate way to prepare for “Shall We Dance”, Concert 3 in the 2019 Canberra International Music Festival and just a short stroll away at the Fitters’ Workshop.

What a delightful concert it was! One of the terrific things about watching percussionists perform is that an audience can see and feel every emotion just exactly the way that the players do.

Without instruments masking faces, it’s enthralling and enjoyable to relate and engage with the players as they talk to each other with their eyes, their smiles and their interactive glances. Trio SR9, the marimba trio from France on their first visit to Australia, were masters of such delightful communication.

They were also light hearted and fun and, with quaint broken English, most charming in verbal introductions. And, oh boy, could they play! With a force of three five-octave marimbas Trio SR9 displayed instrumental virtuosity of the highest order in a program that looked at dance music through three dimensions: baroque dance suites, popular dances and mystical dances.

The marimba sound is just beautiful, particularly in the rich, deep, lower registers and this trio of expert players captured the wonder of the instrument with accuracy and precision along with a most pleasing command of dynamic control and contrast. These qualities were particularly evident in the baroque section of the concert, which included dance music from Purcell, Scarlatti, Handel and Rameau and which culminated in the “Gigue” from Bach’s French Suite No 5.

Part two featured the Debussy “Tarantelle Styrienne”, noteworthy for both the visual and aural spectacle of six hands moving in perfect unison, the Bartok “Romanian Dance No 1” and the Borodin “Polovtsian Dances” from “Prince Igor”, which proved how fitting it was to transcribe the orchestral work to marimbas. The clean and precise articulation, the pure dexterity in the rapid sections and the clarity of sound made this a real concert highlight.

To end the show, the magic of de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” from his gypsy ballet “El Amor Brujo” then the Australian premiere of the only work in world repertoire written specifically for a trio of marimbas.

This was an enchanting concert that extracted sustained and heartfelt applause from a large audience of well-satisfied attendees. Bravo, Trio SR9!

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