MARSYAS TRIO flute, cello and piano

Wednesday 2 November 2022 8pm

Louise Farrenc    Piano trio in E minor, op 45

Hilary Tann         ‘In the Theatre of Air’

Thea Musgrave   Canta Canta for flute, cello & piano

Chen Yi                ‘Night Thoughts’

Fanny Hensel      Piano Trio in D minor, op 11

The Marsyas Trio, was formed in 2009 by graduates of the Royal Academy of Music, and comprises Helen Vidovich (flute), Olga Stezhko (piano) and Val Welbanks (cello). The use of the name of Marsyas (the satyr who took up Athena’s discarded flute and challenged Apollo to a contest) represents the trio’s ambition to revive and challenge tradition in the field of chamber music. They hope to inspire a generation of new works through commissioning and recording while bringing to the public forgotten music from the existing classical repertoire.

Their programme for Ilkley highlights women composers from Mendelssohn’s sister, Fanny, through the French piano virtuoso, Louise Farrenc, and the 20th-century English composer Thea Musgrave. It features two 21st century works by Welsh-born composer, Hilary Tann, and Chinese-born Chen Yi, both of whom now live in New York.

REVIEW BY Chris Skidmore

Women to the fore!

Were the heads of the male worthies carved on the King’s Hall boxes looking down in surprise or disapproval during Wednesday’s concert? It should be no surprise to hear a concert of music by women composers played by a female performing group. Yet it is regrettably still something worthy of comment and an event worthy of celebration!

The Marsyas Trio – Helen Vidovich (flute), Olga Stezhko (piano) and Val Welbanks (cello) – have been championing the music of women composers for some time and are now in a good position to ride this welcome trend. Their programme sandwiched three shorter pieces by living composers between two chamber works by 19th century contemporaries – Louise Farrenc and Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel.

Louise Farrenc’s op 45 trio, her last chamber work. was written for this little-heard combination of flute, cello and piano. The flute is naturally to the fore, with a lively and demanding piano part: the work was performed with great brio, particularly in the outer movements, while the flute arioso of the Andante was beautifully played. Fanny Mendelssohn’s trio, written for the more usual combination of violin, cello and piano, is a masterpiece of chamber writing with again a fine second movement Andante. The third movement – Lied – is a song without words as championed by the other Mendelssohn. This was again a committed performance but I missed the tone of the violin and wondered, as in the Farrenc, whether the balance between the instruments was quite right.

No such considerations arose in the modern works with their more open textures. Hilary Tann’s In the Theatre of Air, commissioned by the Trio, is a readily approachable work based on bird imagery for which the flute is well suited – a very demanding work to play and wonderfully well executed by all three players. Canta Canta! by Thea Musgrave, featuring the rich tones of the alto flute evoking the heat of summer, was given a convincing performance. Chen Li’s Night thoughts, in a more challengingly dissonant style but well scored for the three instruments, showcased the talents of the performers.

The adventurous programming and the committed playing of the Trio made this a rewarding evening of music making.