Concert Review

Zodiac Trio with Ariel Barnes
Chamber Music Kelowna
April 3rd, 2018

Chamber Music Kelowna presented their penultimate concert of the season Tuesday night at the Mary Irwin Theatre. The concert featured the internationally acclaimed Zodiac Trio, comprised of violinist Vanessa Mollard, clarinettist Kliment Krylovskiy, and pianist Riko Higuma, along with guest cellist Ariel Barnes. Well known to Okanagan audiences, Barnes’ playing, infused with warmth and depth of character, proved a perfect compliment to the members of the Zodiac Trio.

Described by Krylovskiy as a program celebrating the human spirit, the first piece, Fraylach, by the American composer Paul Schoenfield, fit the bill nicely. Bursting with life, this cheerful, klezmer inspired work featured colourful licks in the clarinet soaring over bursts of ricochet and droning double stops in the violin.

Barnes then joined Mollard for the first two movements of Ravel’s Duo for Violin and Cello. A unique work in the string repertoire, the first movement, with its complex and interlocking melodic fragments, shows off Ravel’s interest in the modernist machine age, while the contrasting second movement features jazz-like idioms. Both musicians were thoroughly engaged in the character of this work, with Barnes clearly digging his walking bass line, punctuated by explosive pizzicato chords in the second mvt.

Three Mvts. (I, II and V) From Bruch’s 8 Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano Op. 83 concluded the first half. Featuring Mollard on viola, these folksy vignettes contrasted nicely with the rest of the program and were sensitively played by the ensemble.

The pièce de résistance, the Trio Op. 144 for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano by Brahms opened the second half, although clearly would have made for an excellent finish to the program. Having virtually retired from composition, Brahms was inspired to take up writing again after hearing the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld. A work that showcases the virtuosity of all three instruments, the passionate dialogue throughout between the clarinet and cello was particularly well realized by Krylovskiy and Barnes. In the more introverted passages, the cello and clarinet seemed to fuse into one intimate voice, beautifully supported by Higuma on piano. Written in the twilight of Brahms’ career and incorporating some of his signature compositional elements including descending thirds, and the occasional utterance of the F-A-F (Frei Aber Froh/ free but happy) theme in the fourth movement, this work demands serious technical and musical control which was beautifully demonstrated by all three performers.

The Zodiac Trio concluded the concert with two steamy tangos by Piazzolla, Milonga del Ángel and Muerte del Ángel, skillfully arranged for the group by Higumi.

Sandra Wilmot is a Kelowna-based freelance musician, composer, educator, and violin instructor. She plays professionally with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and is on faculty at the Kelowna Community Music School.