Piano Trio on Irish Folk Themes
Elegie, Op.23
The Triology Dimension
Piano Trio No.1 in B, Op.8

[Richard Hyung-ki Joo (piano), Rafal Zambrzycki-Payne (violin) & Thomas Carroll (cello)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 7 December, 2005
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

As winners of the Parkhouse Award, now in its fifteenth year, the ensemble Dimension – usually a piano trio – takes a series of three London concert dates, of which this first one offered an extremely varied programme.

The main work, a dramatic performance of the Revised Version of Brahms’s B major Piano Trio, was one that scaled the heights early on, thanks to Thomas Carroll’s passionately voiced cello, and it never looked back. Pianist Richard Hyung-ki Joo had his moment in the Adagio, a rapt stillness in the homophonic writing countering more urgent thoughts from Rafal Zambrzycki-Payne’s violin, the composer’s lead from Beethoven clearly taken.

The players made a big sound in the outer movements, Joo occasionally straining the piano’s sound quality, but there was also energy and drive perfectly suited to this relatively youthful piece. The scherzo was a tour de force, pointed contrasts made between the opening pinpricks on violin and cello and the big theme, wrapped up with a ghostly envoi sans vibrato. Tuning was excellent throughout, no mean achievement for what is a difficult key for the strings.

The first half jumped between emotions a little haphazardly, the reserved stillness with which Suk’s moving Elegie ends was immediately dissipated by a comedic triptych composed by the pianist. A series of character pieces, The Triology Dimension paints an affectionate set of portraits of Joo’s friends from his time spent studying in Vienna, and did so with great personality and wit. The enjoyably farcical tribute to Tristan, clearly a keen multi-instrumentalist, contains an amusing jazz-chord joke, while the ode to violinist Daisy Jopling is deeply profound. Only the third friend, Aleksey, outstayed his welcome in Joo’s longer-taken characterisation, although here too there were comedic send-ups, the string players improvising with chopsticks and Joo busy inside the piano with an electronic fan. No matter, the audience responded warmly to a theatrical piece, and Joo’s wide grin indicated his penchant for the integration of comedy and music had been indulged.

Opening the concert was a virtuoso performance of Frank Martin’s folk-based trio. Taken at quite a lick, the melodies were thrilling in their presentation, with Joo enjoying his skittish accompaniment to Carroll’s profound cello solo in the Adagio. Meanwhile the scurrying, jerky rhythms of the closing ‘Gigue’ were expertly dispatched, the pianist throwing off the principal melody’s ornamentation with considerable élan. At all times the three players communicated their musical thoughts with themselves and the audience, only too happy to be making music of an extremely high quality.

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