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Review | Joyfulness the hallmark of Sitkovetsky Trio’s recital and orchestral performances

Works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov

Click here to view on South China Morning Post. The rapport between violinist and cellist, and the technical accomplishment of all three players, was evident in Sitkovetsky Trio’s performances in Hong Kong. They produced moments of great beauty in works by two Russian composers, and played Beethoven trio and triple concerto with grace, energy and expressiveness

The Sitkovetsky Trio, (from left) Alexander Sitkovetsky, Wu Qian and Isang Enders, played with an abundance of joy both in their Premiere Performances recital on November 14 in Hong Kong and their November 16 performance with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. The Sitkovetsky Trio’s playing was marked by energy, joy and superb articulation. Photo: Thomas Lin/Premiere Performances

The Sitkovetsky Trio were in Hong Kong last week to perform in a chamber music setting and then as soloists with a full orchestra – and the abundance of joy in their playing was clear in both concerts.

Russian violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and German-Korean cellist Isang Enders are so at one that their tasteful vibrato often seems to be in complete sync. This unity was particularly evident in the trio’s recital on Thursday evening, which featured works by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

They and the third member of the trio, Chinese pianist Wu Qian, sparkled i n Rachmaninov’s haunting Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor, a single-movement elegy the Russian composed when he was 18 years old. While some unison triplet passages felt rushed, they produced a sound of ethereal beauty, culminating in a funeral march where time seemed to all but stand still.

Tchaikovsky’s Trio in A minor is dedicated to his great friend and mentor Nikolai Rubenstein, and the trio shone in a series of variations that depict Rubenstein’s associations. The up-bow spiccato work from Sitkovetsky and Enders was impressive, as were the brisk and playful mazurka and waltz fragments, and the uniformity of the crescendos was brilliant. When the opening, funeral march theme returned, the trio played it with heart-wrenching beauty.

Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat major not only provided a welcome colour change from the preceding works in minor keys, but showed the trio’s poise in another genre.

The composer’s nod to his teacher Haydn – a double variation in place of the usual slow movement – was lapped up by the musicians, who played it with tremendous energy and grace. A telephone ringtone in the audience disrupted the sparkling finale to an otherwise brilliant recital.

Beethoven’s Concerto in C for Violin, Cello & Piano (known as the Triple Concerto) has been dubbed the “cello concerto that Beethoven never wrote”, and the German composer undeniably favours the cello when it comes to solo entries. But that’s as far as it goes – all three instruments are largely united in their interplay.

And what rollicking interplay there was, as Sitkovetsky and Enders tackled with relish their roles as soloists with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta under the baton of principal guest conductor Christoph Poppen on Saturday.

All three members produced a more upfront sound than in their chamber music recital to be heard above the orchestra, but did not tinker with the fine delicacy of articulation that is a hallmark of their work.


The Sitkovetsky Trio perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Photo: Hong Kong Sinfonietta

At certain moments Wu’s sound on the Steinway grand piano dominated that of the violin and cello soloists, but given her instrument’s position front and centre on the stage that may have been unavoidable. Her tonal shading and dexterity were top-notch.

The Sinfonietta under Poppen not only provided a deft and able accompaniment for the soloists, but were integral to the energy and joyfulness of this performance of the concerto.

The Sitkovetsky Trio Recital; Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, City Hall Concert Hall

Reviewed: November 14 and 16, 2019


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