Amael Piano Trio

Amael Piano Trio

 Ljubljana, Ljubljana, SVN

A top-notch ensemble!
A superb Beethoven's 'Archduke',Magical colouring, highlighting of luminescent thrilling, and fresh shades.
an extremely high level of musical communication

Band Press

Amael Piano Trio at The Forge in London: A fascinating selection of Slovenian music and a riveting interpretation of Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’. – "The Classical Source": November 30, 2010

The members of the Amael Piano Trio have a large discography and numerous works composed for them. On this occasion they presented a fascinating selection of Slovenian music and a riveting interpretation of Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’.

Pride of place was accorded to Maestoso lugubre by one of the leading Slovenian composers, Lucijan Marija Skerjanc (1900-1973), a multi-talented musician – pianist, conductor, composer and head of the Ljubljana Academy of Music – who composed it when he was thirty-five, as the finale of a 45-minute work. The movement starts with a Hindemith-like fugue based on a widely contoured subject, introduced here with strident resonance by Damir Hamidulin. The work evolves a more opulent chromatic impressionism reminiscent of Delius, with crunchy piano chords overlaid by expansive, sustained melodies in octaves for strings. There is a funereal dotted-rhythm procession assigned to the piano at the mid-point, which Tatjana Ognjanovic projected with compelling character, highlighting the biting, ostinato-laden bittersweet flavour suggestive of Shostakovich. In the final section there are several passages of exquisite beauty which counter the general dour mood, but the ending is a darker procession for piano alone.

In a more experimental atonal idiom was Something Wild by Nenad First (born 1964), an intriguing work that Volodja Balzalorsky projected with stunning virtuosity and gripping energy. In the hands of this subtle yet communicative artist the violin came alive, with pointed pizzicato, incisive double-stopping and rapid passagework adding to the relentless excitement.

A more radical exploration of the piano trio emerged in Five Short Pieces by Milko Lazar (born 1965). Composed in 2001 for the Amael musicians, each of the movements is vividly contrasted and finely crafted, alert to a range of influences including minimalism, jazz harmonies and rock rhythms. The two slow movements, second and fourth, evoked poetic imagery in the spare use of tiny ostinato patterns and wisps of melody; in the second (‘Largo lamento’) an atmospheric texture of high violin and low piano chords frame an elegiac cello melody. The faster movements radiated energy and panache, with quick-fire repeated-note motifs and fizzing syncopations.

The concert concluded with a superb ‘Archduke’, full-blooded in tone yet also respectful of structural clarity. Magical colouring of modulations, highlighting of luminescent trilling, and fresh shades, lifted this performance above the usual. The fast tempo for the scherzo contributed to its lively imitative dialogues, and also the syncopations of the jocular finale. Yet the Variations of the third movement was the highpoint, a transcendent, calm flowing beauty of tone, the rhetoric involving and absorbing. The Amael Piano Trio was on top form and will be welcome in London again and often.

Reviewed by: Malcolm Miller

"Amael Piano Trio in Belgrade" A great artistic event of valuable guest artists – "Radio Belgrade" October 25 2010

... The concert of Amael Piano Trio shall remain reasonably be remembered as a great artistic event of valuable guest artists from Slovenia... ...L.M. Skerjanc's Maestoso lugubre oppressed by the tragedy of this score, which requires balancing of pathos and restraint, was realized through a saturated, dark sound range, and deep sound conformation, which occurs only as a result of common breathing...

Playing in some parts of the "Nocturne" by Shubert on the very threshold of hearing, members of the trio Amael here demonstrated exceptional subtlety of mutual listening, like the kind of prompt with silence...

After only a brief introduction of the first paragraph, in which, after performing a solo piano, imperceptibly interfere section violin and cello, it was clear from how much restraint, lyricism and, why not, the nobility, the AmaelPiano Trio interpret Beethoven's music.

Reviewed by Ivana Komadina

A top-notch ensemble, the Amael Piano Trio! Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall – "New York Concert Review" November 13 2010

A top-notch ensemble, the Amael Piano Trio, was presented this weekend under the auspices of the Spectrum Chamber Music Society, with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia. In a program of 20th-century Slovenian music (first half) and Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B-flat, Op. 97, the “Archduke” (second half), they brought unity and vigor to both old and new.

The Amael Trio, based in Ljubljana, states in its biography (in addition to mentioning traditional repertoire) that it is “dedicated to performing contemporary works, and to the promotion, internationally, of Slovenian composers of piano trio literature.” They did an excellent job of just that in their Saturday evening program, and though only the pianist and violinist are natives of Slovenia (the cellist hailing from Russia), they represented Slovenia with honor. They might add to their biography that they also promote some non-trio works, as there was a violin solo included on their program; considering that each of the three players is of such strong individual ability, they might want to incorporate some solos or duos by the pianist and cellist as well. It would be a welcome addition.

The concert opened in an intensely dark vein with “Maestoso Lugubre” by Lucijan Marija Skerjanc (1900-1973). Composed in 1935, the work is actually the last movement of this composer’s Piano Trio, though Skerjanc himself suggested that it be performed as a single work. From the very first solo cello notes by Damir Hamidullin, a somber lyricism pervaded, deepened by each player’s entry. The synchronization was marvelous, particularly in the string doublings (which can so easily sound “off” but were never so). All three blended in a way that was rich and warm, but also translucent, like the sonic equivalent of amber. The pianist, Tatjana Ognjanovic, managed to be the perfect foundation and “glue” for the trio without any suggestion of dominance even with the Steinway lid up.

Violinist Volodja Balzalorsky came onstage next as soloist in “Something Wild” by Nenad First (b. 1964). Mr. First, though born in Zagreb, lives and works in Slovenia. “Something Wild” is pretty much what its title suggests, a rhapsodic, virtuoso violin showpiece with a rough, rustic streak (plenty of fifths) and dizzying speed (think Bartok meets Paganini). Seemingly fiendishly difficult in parts, it was the compulsory violin work in the 2005 International Johannes Brahms Competition. While I cannot profess to love the piece, it was an intriguing break from the trios and certainly an opportunity for Mr. Balzalorsky to shine.

The first half concluded with the trio performing “Five Short Pieces” by Milko Lazar (b. 1965). Dedicated to the trio in 2001, it is a work of great variety within concise, classically restrained movements, each contrasting with the last (arranged as fast, slow, fast, slow, fast). The performance was one of extreme precision, and it would be hard to imagine it being played more convincingly than it was by this tightly knit ensemble.

Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio, a masterpiece that is reason enough to go to any concert, was given a fine, mostly polished performance for the evening’s close. Performers are unfortunately subject to the accumulated preferences of a listener when performing such an established masterpiece, and I felt it was slightly unsettled in parts. Occasionally it was a matter of simply needing more agogic placement of downbeats (as in the first movement’s initial move to G major, where a more settled metric feeling can enhance ensuing rhythmic surprises), but other times (as in the magnificent third movement) it seemed that the pursuit of momentum was undermining the overarching grandeur of the work. All in all, though, it was a fulfilling musical evening, and this is a superb ensemble, which I hope to hear again.

-Rorianne Schrade for New York Concert Review; New York, NY

Radio Slovenia – Franc Kriznar

...perfect symbiosis of intellect and passion...
Radio Slovenia...

Vjesnik, Croatia – by Jaksa Zlatar

Pianist Tatjana Ognjanovic, violinist Volodja Balzalorsky and cellist Damir Hamidulin collaborate on an extremely high level of musical communication. These three excellent musicians, all of them masters of their instrument, amalgamate their respective expertise in a high-quality musical experience... in Brahms the sound displayed luxury, power and temperament, confirming the high technical level, the accomplished interpretation and the excellent musicianship of this leading Slovenian trio. – Editor's Review- June 2006

This award-winning Slovenian group plays its renditions of 19th-century German and Russian luminaries with a masterful cross of red-blooded force and delicate restraint. It's that balance of vigor and vulnerability that distinguishes these works, this trio hits all the right notes.

"New York Concert Review": Amael Piano Trio at Carnegie Hall – by Edith Eisler

Amael Piano Trio is a very fine group. The stringplayer's intonation is impeccable, their tone is rich, beautiful and homogeneous and can vary from floating delicacy to vibrant full bodied sonorousness...
A large multi-national audience rewarded the performers with warm approval and prolonged ovations.