Subtlety is the overarching quality that violinist Brigid Coleridge, cellist Julia Yang and pianist Lee Dionne – the Merz Trio – convey so luminously in the works of Vincent Scotto, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy interspersed between spoken words from Anna de Noailles, Jean Cocteau, Guillaume Apollinaire and other writers. All of this comes together seamlessly in the trio’s extraordinary debut disc, Ink.
The recitation often doesn’t raise its voice much above a whisper, and even when it does, the narratives and music are skilfully and intricately interwoven to maintain a certain expressive decorum. The trio alters spoken word, harmonies and structural elements with impressive restraint, heading in directions that surprise and captivate the ear.
Most of the movements in the pieces presented here have a somewhat programmatic basis, though it isn’t always necessary to know the storyline to appreciate the result. Moreover, both written word and musical notes spring off the page and rise in graceful, elliptical arcs pirouetting in balletic movement. Just when you think that things couldn’t get any better than Lili Boulanger’s D’un vieux jardin, it is Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor that unfolds in a series of ethereal gestures, emerging in a panoply of colours and harmonic implications. Throughout, the Merz perform with consummate artistry, blending superior control and tonal lucidity with a breathtaking sense of line and motion.