Their music isn’t stuffy, high browed or intimidating. Violinist Justine Cormack says the trio likes to smash the preconceptions of classical music. Their performances are edgy, she says, a mixture of musical cultures and genres, and their delivery accessible and intimate.
“We want to break down the barriers surrounding classical music. We’re committed to making new and classical music accessible and relevant to everyone. At every concert we give our audiences something unexpected so they leave feeling surprised and excited.”
Part of the unexpected is the venue chosen for their Wellington performance, City Gallery. Cormack says an art gallery is the perfect place to perform chamber music.
“There’s such a natural fit between visual art and music and it’s less formal than a concert hall so people don’t feel intimidated. Art galleries with their square shapes and flat surfaces also have beautiful acoustics, and we’re always keen to play in intimate spaces. Chamber music is very much about being up close and personal.”
That personal touch extends to the trio introducing the programme and joining the audience afterwards over a glass of wine.
“We talk about the music during the performance and this helps us to connect with the audience,” Cormack says.
The City Gallery performance is part of a national tour celebrating the trio’s tenth year. In 2002 Cormack joined cellist Ashley Brown and pianist Sarah Watkins in a concert at St Andrew’s on the Terrace, and the NZTrio was born.
“I had played with Sarah since high school and Ashley and I played together in 2000, but that St Andrew’s concert was the first time the three of us had played together,” Cormack says.
The three players soon attracted attention. They were Ensemble in Residence at Auckland University from 2004 to 2009, and have toured throughout New Zealand, Australia, Asia, South America, the United States and the United Kingdom. The trio have just returned from a tour of China and Taiwan. It was their fifth visit to China where they are gaining a following for their innovative approach to chamber music.
“Before we went to China people who had performed there told us we should play really conservative pieces because that’s what the Chinese like. But our experience has been if you mix the programme with New Zealand music they love it.”
Their programmes regularly feature the likes of Jack Body, Gareth Farr, John Psathas, Dame Gillian Whitehead and Eve de Castro Robinson. Their City Gallery concert includes new works by Auckland composer Alex Taylor, burlesque mécaniques, and Wellington composer Karlo Margetic, Lightbox.
“Lightbox is a very dramatic piece, very complicated and extremely hard to play,” Cormack says. “He’s taken a few notes and woven them into a tapestry, and people will hear those threads as they’re taken on a great ride from beginning to end.”
The programme begins with Spanish composer Joachim Turina and ends with Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.
NZTrio, City Gallery, 7pm, October 31.