Classical review: Artisan Trio - Edinburgh

For the first of their five monthly Pendulum rush-hour concerts, Artisan’s potential audience had, for the most part, rushed home rather than to St Andrew’s and St George’s on a blustery evening.

Artisan Trio - St Andrew’s and St George’s, Edinburgh

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Taking the theme of composers who had studied at Edinburgh University, and designing an hour-long programme around the world premiere of one of their own pieces, is an ingenious idea. It is not without risk, however, and yesterday’s result was one of challenge both to performers as well as to the modest audience who had braved the elements to hear them.

Australian Christine McCombe’s Three Kinds of Silence, written this year, formed the centrepiece of three contemporary piano trios, the others by Scottish-born Judith Weir and fellow Australian Ross Edwards. Opening with a sort of sweeping romanticism, McCombe’s piece has a sense of space and beauty in the way she intriguingly employs silence to put a compelling focus on the notes.

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Making highly effective use of the piano trio forces, at times it is other-worldly and reaches its conclusion radiating serenity.

Judith Weir’s Zen influenced Piano Trio Two is another finely crafted example of music for the violin, cello and piano combination. Delicate and resonating with Eastern influence, Artisan, who were on top form throughout, emphasised its punchy rhythms and changing evocations of mood, the ghostly middle movement becoming quite spooky as it went on. In comparison, Ross Edwards seemed a heavier hand and his music less easy to grasp.