Metropolis: Melbourne Piano Trio, Delicacies of Molten Horror

The Melbourne Piano Trio brought an intimate programme of film-related chamber music to the Melbourne Recital Centre Salon as part of the Metropolis New Music Festival. Paul Dean’s Threnody for Clara Bow is inspired by the silent film actress Clara Bow, who achieved astronomical fame before sinking into complete obscurity after the introduction of the talkies. Dean’s piano trio seems to find Bow at the height of her fame, with explosive piano chords (Rhodri Clarke) and a muscular cello line in 5/8, a meter intended by Dean to evoke the skipping of early film reels. The ecstatic opening gives way to a singing violin line played by Holly Piccoli as the piece begins to take on a darker tone. A menacing, polytonal climax gives Chris Howlett’s expressive cello playing time to shine. The piece traces Bow’s decline from starlet to her lonely death from a heart attack at the age of sixty. As Dean wonders: “Imagine going from 40,000 fan letters a month to dying alone.” Dean gives Bow a moment of grace at the end of her life, with ethereal arpeggios across the violin and a heartbreaking cello line.

It was nice to hear some film music by Ryuichi Sakamoto arranged for piano and piano trio. Clarke brought out all the gushing sentimentality of Sakamoto’s soundtracks including The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. I was sad to hear that Christopher de Groot’s new work Delicacies of Molten Horror accompanied by the film of the same name by Stan Brakhage was not able to be performed. The Armenian composer Arno Babjanian’s Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor was performed with plenty of (musical) fireworks as substitute.

Melbourne Piano Trio
Delicacies of Molten Horror
Metropolis New Music Festival
Melbourne Recital Centre
5 May 2015

Arno Babjanian, Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor; Ryuichi Sakamoto, Babel: Bibono Aozora, The last Emperor, Seven Samurai, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence; Paul Dean, Threnody for Clara Bow.

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