Wits Trio debut a hit with Brahms
Why does such a large percentage of music lovers adore the work of Johannes Brahms?
He was a protégé of the classical tradition as well as an example for the avant-garde. An enjoyer of life as well as a melancholic. Genial, yet full of self-doubt. A man of many faces.
It was gratifying that the three musicians of the Wits Trio ─ Zanta Hofmeyr (violin), Maciej Lacny (cello), and Malcolm Nay (piano) ─ chose Brahms for their packed debut concert to celebrate this historical moment with his Piano Trio No. 1 in B, Opus 8, from 1854.
Listening to the work today, most of us would declare that it is just as developed and mature as late Brahms.
The edition the Wits Trio performed was, however, not the original 1854 version of the work but the revision of 1888.
Numerous Brahms try-out manuscripts were burned in his small coal stove. Thirty-four years after its first appearance, this one escaped that fate.
The interpretation of the Trio was multidimensional. It abundantly illustrated the many faces of the composer.
The ensemble was homogenous and the varying moods in all four movements were striking. The subtlety of the pizzicato in the strings, the brilliance of the pianist's broken chords, and the attunement of the three players so as to form an organic whole were impressive. Contrasts were subtly accentuated; never over-emphasized.
The opening Allegro con brio was masterfully executed, while the mood of the Scherzo and its deeper exploration in the Trio illustrated the composer's developing mastery of style.
The Adagio largely exhibited an ecstatic intimacy, especially in those parts where the piano could flourish in the cathedral-like passages. The final Allegro was filled with varied characteristics.
After the interval, in Dvorak's Trio in E, Op. 90 ─ Dumky ─ the spotlight was more on stronger individual playing. It was obvious that the musicians were in complete control of each mood and tempo with their vitality, virtuosity and even turmoil. This hardly happens without the clear rhapsodic, folkloric idiom, as was evident in this performance.
The meditative and pastoral episodes found a strong contrast in sharply rhythmic and passionate fragments. The individual as well as collective functions were carefully planned and executed in the performance.
Long may the Wits Trio take us on journeys of exploration which also include the distant margins of the repertoire for piano trio. Wits Trio – Atrium, Wits