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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 10 2017

One can be forgiven if the name Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch is unfamiliar. Despite having recorded six CDs since its inception in 2009, it has never performed in Toronto; that is, until yesterday. The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto hosted the Trio at U of T’s Walter Hall in its series Music in the Afternoon. For the close to capacity audience, the arrival of this acclaimed trio was none too soon, and for good reason. Their programme of Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Schumann probed the depths of emotional music-making to a degree that is rare.

Trio Shamham Erez Wallfisch is made up of three renowned solo performers each of whom combined teaching careers with chamber music. Pianist Arnon Erez and violinist Hagai Shaham have been a duo for many years. Both are leading Israeli solo performers and are on faculty at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music of Tel Aviv University. British cellist Raphael Wallfisch met the others playing chamber music together at the Pablo Casals Prades Festival. They instantly recognized an immediate musical synergy and since then have recorded and toured extensively.

The first half of the programme was a study in contrasting Russian styles. Sergei Rachmaninov’s Trio Élégiac No.1 in G minor is an early work written when the composer was a mere nineteen years of age. It may have been written to honour Tchaikovsky. The opening bars, where-in first the piano and then the cello and violin took the main theme, made clear that we were in for something very special. The soaring musical line with its brooding themes took one to late 19th century Russia. The funeral march which concludes the work was played with such passion that one could not help but think Rachmaninoff was already saying goodbye to the pre-revolutionary Russia in which he grew up.

The second work, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No 2 in E minor was written during the Second World War. It reflects the anguish of the repressive period in Stalinist Russia as well as the personal loss of a friend and mentor. The distant eerie sounds of the cello in the high harmonics that opened the work followed by the staccato violin and the piano thereafter were in striking juxtaposition to the spiralling melody. It was in the third movement with its haunting Jewish melody that this listener found the most poignant moments.

Following intermission, Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio Op. 63 in D minor took us back one hundred years to Dresden of 1847 when Schumann was writing a great deal of chamber music. This deeply personal work takes one through a gamut of emotions and was played with astonishing beauty. The Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch is obviously at home with this Romantic style. The third movement, Largo, was an especially intense rendering and a fitting prelude to the jubilant finale that brought the audience to its feet. The Trio then returned for an encore: the fifth section of Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 4 “Dumky”.

The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto will hold its next concert in the Music in the Afternoon series on April 6th at Walter Hall. The Aizuri Quartet will play string quartets of Beethoven, Shaw, Webern and Mendelssohn. 

Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch; Photo credit: Hagai Shaham

MUSIC IN THE AFTERNOON: Chamber Music at its finest!