Z.E.N. Trio open Classical Concert Series from Cambridge Corn Exchange
THE 2017-18 Classical Concert Series from Cambridge Live got off to a glorious start with a special recital last night.
The Z.E.N. Trio is made up of pianist Zhang Zuo, Esther Yoo on violin and Narek Hakhnazaryan on cello: three young, gifted musicians who all have thriving careers as soloists and were all BBC New Generation artists. They have just recorded and released their debut album, and tonight’s performance was the opening night of what is to be a whistle-stop world tour, taking in Liverpool, China and Hong Kong. They are all – judging by the pre-performance talk hosted by series sponsors Miller’s Music – witty and inspiring artists, and great friends.
And that friendship, and the seemingly instinctive understanding of each other’s playing, has clearly benefited their work as a trio. With a musical chemistry that was, at times, almost more like alchemy or extra-sensory perception, each of the three is a bold, imaginative and inspiring performer: never eclipsing their colleagues but each frequently , at points throughout the programme, dazzling in their own right.
They opened with Haydn’s Piano Trio No 10 in E flat major, Hoboken XV:10, with Zhang Zuo’s elegant piano trills immediately stamping her authority on the piece, while the strings seamlessly harmonised. As each piece progressed, the emotions of the music being played were reflected in each player’s facial expressions, from the melodic yearning moments in Brahms’ stunning Piano Trio No 1 in B major, Op 8 through to the intensity and power of its later stages, even the silences between notes heavy and charged with meaning.
After the interval we were treated to Dvořák’s Piano Trio Op 90 ‘Dumky Trio’, perhaps the evening’s highlight. This piece really saw Esther Yoo – this season’s Classical Concert Series Artist in Resident – come to the fore, her quick, exuberant, playful and deft performance capturing and expressing the full range of feelings and moods that this wonderful piece demands.
The trio, whose name comes from the combination of each of their first names’ initials, had joked before the performance that it was somewhat ironic, as their playing was not at all the kind of laid-back style that the word “Zen” might normally suggest. After the concert it was easier to see what they mean. Passionate, intense, gifted, as they encored with a fast and furious take on Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No 6, this engaged and inspirational trio of young musicians opened what promises to be another superb season at the Corn Exchange in a manner that might prove hard to follow.