Reviewer rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Melbourne Symphony Chamber Series
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Iwaki Auditorium
May 25

This concert in the Melbourne Symphony Chamber Series had a slightly competitive air with two separately constituted piano trios each playing one of the hallmarks of the repertoire. Joining pianist Kenji Fujimura were MSO musicians Kathryn Taylor (violin) and Miranda Brockman (cello) for Beethoven’s final Piano Trio in B flat, Opus 97 the Archduke.

Fujimura was the driving force of this ensemble, establishing tempos and defining the approach to articulation. Brockman also had some lovely lyrical moments, but Taylor’s violin was mostly underpowered. Fujimura’s beautifully voiced third-movement opening statement heralded the best work from all three in the challenging set of variations.

Although Beethoven refined and developed the piano trio over many years, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio, Opus 50 was his only attempt at this form. Written in response to the death of Tchaikovsky's great friend, pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, like the best of eulogies this work tempers sadness with reflections of humour amid the grief.

Violinist Ji Won Kim, principal cellist David Berlin and pianist Hoang Pham gave a spirited and exciting account of this trio in which minor slips were quickly forgotten. Pham sacrificed a little in tone with his piano at half stick but he never overpowered in hefty passages and delivered some exquisite pianissimo. With marvellously secure intonation Kim’s violin soared full-voiced across registrars, engaging Berlin’s cello in some superbly equal dialogue. 

While the Tchaikovsky trio undoubtedly had the edge on this occasion the real winner was the audience which got to experience both these magnificent works.