Maxim Rysanov (viola), Nikita Boriso-Glebsky (violin), and Dóra Kokas (cello) at the Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, on 15 March 2023
The current Music Network tour brings audiences the less-often-heard combination of string trio (one each of violin, viola, and cello), as performed by international artists Maxim Rysanov (viola), Nikita Boriso-Glebsky (violin), and Dóra Kokas (cello). It’s strange that we don’t hear this combination more often – apart from anything else, visually it works really well on stage: one player at the centre, facing the audience, flanked on either side by their two colleagues. It’s very collegial and relaxed. Tonight they treat us to a powerful selection of the music available for string trio, playing two works from the late 1700s, and two works composed in the last 20 years.
Dobrinka Tabakova’s ‘Insight’ (2002) for string trio, originally written for Rysanov in a different ensemble, is a piece all about fusion, turning the three instruments into a single sonic entity. From the tonal undulations of the gentle opening to the more driven energy of the faster sections, between them the three players build up a beautiful texture in sound. The gradual harmonic shifts, as if radiating around a low hum of energy, create a richly meditative effect.
After this, we are thrust into the playful world of young Beethoven with the ‘String Trio in G’, composed when he was still in his mid-twenties. The players now act as three individual voices – crisp and articulate, full of smart interplay. The smooth textures of the slow movement usher in a sense of time suspended, with its bell-like themes edged with darkness, before the mood is dispelled in the dancing energies that follow. The finale brings out a sense of fiery concentration and give-and-take between the three, the playing stylish and slick, with a brilliant race to the finish.
Adding a seasonal twist to the programme, Ed Bennett’s freshly-written ‘Imbolc Meditation’ follows. Commissioned by Music Network for this tour, this hypnotic and deeply atmospheric work draws the instruments together into a concentrated stillness. Gently pulsating, the shifting sands of the three voices move in and out of phase, to create a sustained and glistening system of sound.
The concert ends with the oldest piece in the programme, and possibly the earliest written for this combination, the ‘Divertimento in E flat for String Trio’, by Mozart. Anyone going by the title alone and expecting frothy, light entertainment is in for a surprise with this music, which deserves to be much better known. Built up over six movements, there is a lot to take in with this fascinating piece, its brilliant writing bringing out articulate and engaging playing.
The beautiful sonorities of the individual instruments come through vividly, the slow movements poised and balanced, while the later dance-like sections take us out of the city altogether, the three players suggesting the sound of a rustic village band. The last movement starts tenderly, Boriso-Glebsky’s high violin line like a soprano singer with the other two accompanying, before the mood turns to spicy and brilliant virtuosity, smart and full of sweet fire. This is an engrossing programme, superbly played. If they visit your town over the next few days, don’t hesitate to seek them out.
Dobrinka Tabakova: Insight for string trio
Ludwig van Beethoven: String Trio in G major, Op. 9 no. 1
Ed Bennett: Imbolc Meditation (Music Network commission)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Divertimento in E-flat major for string trio, K. 563
Nikita Boriso-Glebsky (violin), Maxim Rysanov (viola), Dóra Kokas (cello)
Trio touring Ireland to 21 March – details here
Photography: Robert Flanagan (Capturehouse.ie) – images show performance at St Ann’s Dawson St, Dublin 2, on 14 March 2023