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Trio shows off a dynamic precision

Z.E.N. Trio… performing with dynamic precision.

Music / Z.E.N Trio. At Llewellyn Hall, August 18. Reviewed by DANTE COSTA. 

THE internationally acclaimed Z.E.N Trio treated the Canberra audience to a program of Brahms, Babajanian and a newly commissioned piece for Musica Viva composed by Melbourne-based composer, Matt Laing. 

Formed by violinist Esther Yoo, cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan and pianist Zhang Zuo, the trio opened with the “Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major”, the piece was well balanced and full of colour and elegance. 

The trio executed the piece with incredible dynamic precision displaying a great command of Brahms’ musical aesthetic. The lyrical themes were shared amongst the ensemble with great ease as each of the musicians blended smoothly into one another’s sound. Finishing the piece with an electric and energetic allegro, the work was very well presented. 

Resuming their place on the stage following a short interval, the trio then performed Matt Laing’s new work, “Little Cataclysms” – the oxymoronic title that Laing suggests is about “intimate, personal disasters in miniature form”. 

Yoo introduced the piece before the trio presented five provocative and thoughtful movements. Yoo opened the work with eerie harmonics played quickly at the top of the fingerboard that were then met with a set of long overtones by Hakhnazaryan. Zuo joined the piece with a rumbling ostinato that was soon echoed by the strings. 

There was a curiously delightful pairing of the pizzicato cello that was complemented with a staccato unison on the piano. This was met with moments of interjecting silence that cushioned each section and gently nudged the audience as if to wake them from a trance and back to reality – it was truly remarkable. 

The innovative use of the instruments and chemistry provided a level of intimacy that elevated the delivery of the performance and made for a more nuanced and personal experience. 

Next up was Babajanian’s “Trio for Piano, Violin & Cello in F Sharp Minor”, which was given a heartfelt and personal introduction by Hakhnazaryan. 

Beginning with the mesmerising largo, Yoo and Hakhnazaryan played the cantabile melody with hauntingly beautiful lyricism. The gentle ornamentation resembled the melismatic speech-like singing that is synonymous with Babajanian’s writing, inspired by Armenian folk music. It was then concluded with a fiery and exciting allegro vivace, but not before the trio returned to the stage one final time for a joyful encore of the vivace from Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No.6”.

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