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Benaud Trio

01/02/2013
Music Forum (Australia)
Elizabeth Silsbury

The ‘world première’ claim is often applied to first performances of Australian music. In most cases, it seems unlikely that the world would be aware, let alone care.

But Benaud’s debut disc is one to make people around the globe sit up and take notice, both for the music itself and the playing. Three of their four works, all Australian, are indeed getting their first airings.

Just to make sure, their programme notes are printed in English, German and French. There’s confidence for you.

Lachlan Bramble (violin), Amir Farid (piano) and Ewen Bramble (cello) have forged themselves into an uncommonly well-matched trio with a special penchant for new pieces that they can stamp with their own postmark. And for cricket, hence their fan-tribute moniker.

Live, their playing glows with vigorous intelligence. Their record comes as close as sound alone can do to witnessing the same programme in the Elder Hall during the 2012 Adelaide Festival.

Ross Edwards dedicated his Piano Trio to his wife, Helen. It was set as a test piece for the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition in 1998. Some test.

The Benaud strings are perfectly at ease with the composer’s trademark filigrees, like veins left on a sere and yellow leaf. Farid’s piano opens the work and flies con brio into the frequently changing time signatures of the final allegro, delivering the abrupt coup de grâce as though he understands it. Beats me, even after several tries. Benaud’s reading has received accolades from Edwards.

Nicholas Buc’s Trailer Music (2010) sits last on the disc, as it did in the live concert. Because I could, I ran it immediately after the Edwards piece. Buc has a deft touch for the idioms that permeate the best background music for modern films and television programmes. Benaud tracks him through what feels like a palate-cleanser before returning to the outside world.

An amuse-bouche from Buc, a main dish from Matthew Hindson. No matter whether you are familiar with the terms ‘trance music’ and ‘anthemic electronic-based dance music’, his Piano Trio (2007) grabs the attention from the opening cross (but not grumpy) rhythms of the punchy ‘moto perpetuo’, hangs on through contemplative chords and string meditations in ‘Repetitions’ and tightens its grip in ‘Epic Diva’. Only with solid backgrounds in classical traditions can composers compose, and players play, so convincingly.

Monteverdi’s madrigal Dolcissimo Uscignolo   was the starting point for Paul Stanhope’s Piano Trio (2007). His words are essential to an appreciation of this lovely piece, equally challenging for listeners and players. Repeated hearings and readings are recommended. Music about a poet who has no use for song? Farid has the final say.

On the disc, as in the live performance, the order goes Edwards, Stanhope, Hindson, Buc.