General News · 17th November 2011
Almost 10% of the island population filled George Hall on Sunday evening, Nov. 13, to hear the Trio Hochelaga. A similar proportion of interest in Vancouver would have burst the Pacific Coliseum. Comments after the concert ranged from “very good”, “wonderful” to “superb”. A teenager called it “amazing”, perhaps the highest degree of praise. What was all the enthusiasm about?
Most of us had never heard of Hochelaga, the Iroqois term for the site of Montreal. Two of the performers are not even based in Montreal: Paul Marleyn, the cellist, is professor at the University of Ottawa, as is Stephane Lemelin, the pianist. Only the violinist, Anne Robert, seems to be a genuine Hochelagaëss, having played first violin in the MSO for years and teaching as professor at the Conservatoire de Musique and Université du Montreal. That, however, did not signify a leading role for the violin in this trio. A chamber ensemble sometimes strives to play with one distinctive common sound, much like a good conductor would have guided his musicians into one mold. Trio Hochelaga offered much more. Three soloists maintained their different individual styles of perfectly honed expressiveness in an interchange that may be compared to a lively conversation of three intellectuals from different disciplines, arriving at one common conclusion. Overall, the piano was fresh and powerful, sometimes appearing as driving force. Stephane Lemelin apparently liked the piano, a rare compliment for the Whaletown Club’s choice, from a virtuoso. The cellist combined an occasionally wonderful dreamy lyric mood with brisk precision, aided, no doubt, by the even and rich timbre throughout his instrument’s pitch range. The violin sounds were of variable timbre, multifaceted, often warm and soft in the lower register but brilliant and harder in the upper range, likely due to the use of a modern metal e-string on an old instrument. In the concert the three artists were able to envelope the listener in the moods and imagery of some of the greatest romantic music through perfect mastery of great instruments.
Not much needs to be said about the music, described in detail in the program. We heard three pieces: The Elegiac Trio 1 by Rachmaninoff is a lamentation on a theme recognizable as inversion of the opening four notes from Tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto. Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio, No. 5 in D, takes its name from the German “Geist” which refers more to mental power, or a benign working spirit, than an ephemeral dead epiphany. The mood of this trio is charming and warm, rather than fearful-eerie. Schubert’s trio in B-flat is an extensive work, full of song-like melodies and musical depictions of natural scenes. Despite the small number of instruments these three pieces are well known as major representatives of the romantic era from numerous recordings and radio presentations. Trio Hochelaga played them at Gorge Hall, in inverse historical order, with authoritative verve.