Darlington Trio closed out the Grove Classics 2023 season in a flamboyant offering of East European attitude on Sunday.
In a tale of two halves, WASO assistant concertmaster Semra Lee and cellist Nicholas Metcalfe opened with Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly’s Duo for Violin and Cello Op.7, before UWA’s Graeme Gilling joined on piano for Czech Antonin Dvorak’s “Dumky” Piano Trio in E minor.
Though differing in sound palette the two works shared a smorgasbord of mood swings in an intimate setting at the Grove Library, Cottesloe.
Kodaly’s stridently Romantic opening summoned Lee’s rhapsodic violin, with cello in support then chiming in as counterpoint, alternating the lead.
Broad phrases were answered in brilliantly stark flourishes with plangent pizzicato a singular cello feature. Complex and contrasting melodic lines challenged technique and tonal control; both met seamlessly.
Folkloric themes emerged in solemn meditation until a violin soliloquy searching harmonics, replicated in mellow cello, and an infinitesimal fade.
The Adagio-Andante middle movement brought more Romantic reflection with a modernistic edge; violin exploring over metronomic cello morphing to a muted drone. Lee again sought the stratosphere before plunging to join cello in the midrange, engaging in unison then breaking back to the meditative mode of the opening.
A conversation between the two seemed shrouded in mystery yet imbued with meaning; meeting and parting again in an ethereal cadence.
Solo violin led in the Maestoso finale, echoed in fragmentary style by cello before joining in a duet; mix and repeat. The pattern seemed set until a sudden frenzy of furious bowing and jagged pizzicato turned bold and dramatic in call and response; almost a narrative, befitting a library.
Bucolic dance measures intensified the timbre, to be relieved by a carillon of plucked strings with hints of glissando, building energy towards a gymnastic dismount.
The duo had earned the break and returned reinforced by Gilling for the Dvorak.
Celebratory pealing in piano with sonorous cello to open drew the softest of violin leads, echoed with emotion in cello and punctuated by piano before bursting into a symphonic trio; the strings feeding off percussive piano pulses with interweaving melodic lines.
Almost without pause between movements, cello summoned adagio before subsiding to support buoyant piano then re-emerging to lead over piano flourishes with violin dancing attendance.
Violin then took its turn over cello drone and piano dance figures, the urgent surge of European folklore asserting itself in agile string playing, complemented on the keyboard.
An almost prayerful ambience changed the mood with piano playing unison then harmonically to support strings; a kaleidoscopic mix in which piano provided the light source and strings the colour.
Like dancers at a ball, the group drew close then apart as the music dictated, throwing melody around the trio; their blended sound testament to close collaboration.
Chimes in piano underpinned swooning violin then full-voiced cello in renewed attack before cascading into melodic eddies then flowing back to the mainstream; piano the secure foundation for individual brilliance in strings, brimming up to overflow at the close.
Grove Classics will return in 2024 with the headline act, cellist and guitarist Sharon and Slava Grigoryan, announced for October 6.