27 April 2008 - Manhattan Piano Trio


Programme of mainly modern music was played with great skill and verve by the Manhattan Piano Trio, appearing at the Durban Jewish Centre for the Friends of Music. These are three young eastern European performers, on the piano, violin and cello, who now live in the United States and are associated with the Juilliard School of music in New York. They are Milana Strezeva (piano), Dmitry Lukin (violin) and Dmitry Kouzov (cello), and in a programme of music by Haydn, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Ravel they showed that they are all most accomplished players.

Haydn`s "Gypsy Rondo" Trio in G, Hob X:25, was given with great eloquence and style, with Dmitry Lukin in particular excelling on the violin in the first two movements. The final Hungarian gypsy music rondo was taken at breakneck speed. I know it is marked Presto, but I don`t think the composer intended it to be a blur of fast notes. Anyway, the audience were highly appreciative, as indeed they were throughout the programme.

Rachmaninov`s Trio Elegiaque in G minor was probably a novelty to most listeners. Written when the composer was 19, it is rather dense at times but has hints of the rich harmonies and surging melodies that were later to bring the composer fame and fortune

After referring to his distinction as a pianist, the programme note added: "As a composer he fared less well, certainly with the critics; his own compositions were considered totally irrelevant". Try telling that to the masses who have flocked to hear his second piano concerto over the past hundred years.

Two compositions by Shostakovich and Ravel`s fine 1914 Trio in A minor made up the rest of the programme. The Shostakovich Trio No. 1 in C minor, written in 1923 when the composer was an 18-year-old student, has some eloquent singing phrases for the stringed instruments and is not as abrasive as some of his later work, though it has its share of dissonances and spiky rhythms. An outstanding performance brought forth prolonged applause.

Shostakovich`s Jazz Suite No. 1 (better known in its orchestral form) just about brought the house down, the players revelling in its saucy and rather ironic version of jazz of the thirties. The evening`s prelude performer, funded by the National Lottery, was the 20-year-old soprano Fae Evelyn, who is studying with Colleen Philp at the University of KZN. Accompanied by Andrew Warburton at the piano, she displayed a full, true voice that in quality, training and presentation was far ahead of the standard of most of the prelude performers at these concerts.   

Michael Green (Courtesy of ArtSmart)