Argyle Trio (rescheduled)

• Tuesday 21st September 2021, 4.00pm and 7.30pm Past
• X Space, Baycourt, Tauranga map »
Wilma Smith (violin), Matthias Balzat (cello), Michael Houston (piano)
UPDATED NOTICE: After extensive discussions with the artists and Baycourt we are delighted to announce that we can host the Argyle Trio for TWO concerts on Tuesday 21 September at the Addison Theatre, Baycourt.

Due to the COVID Level 2 restrictions, each concert can only have an audience of fifty persons socially spaced in the auditorium. To accommodate this requirement, these international class performers are willing to do a double act with concerts at 4:00pm and 7:30pm. Each concert will last just over an hour, there will be no intermission, and the timing allows Baycourt staff to perform a two hour clean between concerts.

We feel enormously privileged that Wilma, Matthias and Michael are willing to perform in Tauranga for us under these conditions. This will be a concert(s) not to be missed by these absolute world class musicians.

Tickets will be available mid next week from Ticketek, these can be purchased online or at the Baycourt box office. If you already have a Tauranga Musica flexi ticket this can be used for the event.

Programme 4:00pm: Beethoven Piano Trio in E♭ major Op 1 No 1, Ravel Piano Trio in A minor

Programme 7:30pm: Beethoven Piano Trio in B♭ major Op 97 'Archduke', Ravel Piano Trio in A minor


Wilma Smith (violin) was born in Fiji and studied in the US with the legendary Dorothy deLay. She worked regularly with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was concertmaster of the NZSO, then the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and is now curator or Wilma & Friends.

Matthias Balzat (cello) is a NZ born cellist who studied under James Tennant at the University of Waikato completing a BMus (Hons) and winning several prestigious competitions before heading to Dusseldorf, Germany to complete a Masters degree at the Robert Schumann Hochschule fur Musik.

Michael Houston (piano) needs no introduction as NZ’s foremost concert pianist, regularly playing with professional music-ensembles as well as giving solo recitals and recording. He has twice performed the complete Beethoven sonatas in seven-concert cycles. More recently he has performed the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Bach’s Well Tempered Klavier in two-concert events.

Argyle Trio 2021 - Review

View Programme Notes

Review of Argyle Trio (rescheduled):

Concert Review – Tauranga Musica

The Argyle Trio – 21 September at Baycourt’s Addison Theatre

Music – truly good music – can have the remarkable ability to transport the listener to another time and place. Music, free from distraction, can make us forget momentarily the uncertain times in which we find ourselves. Tuesday’s Tauranga Musica sponsored concerts of the Argyle Trio at Baycourt was just such a moment in time. The organisers at Tauranga Musica and Baycourt staff worked overtime to ensure the integrity of the performance while still managing to adhere to all Alert Level 2 guidelines, providing a refreshing musical oasis in the seeming wilderness of lockdowns.

The Argyle Trio is typically comprised of violinist Wilma Smith, cellist Matthias Balzat, and Australian pianist Laurence Matheson. However, due to travel restrictions at the border, legendary New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun made for an extremely satisfactory last minute substitution to the trio.

The trio opened the afternoon concert with Beethoven’s E-Flat Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 1. Written just 3 years after the death of Mozart, whose influence is unmistakable , Beethoven is clearly eager to expand the form and stamp his own mark on it. The opening Allegro movement began with an exceedingly strong and balanced introduction revealing the exquisite blend of the three musicians giving listeners an immediate taste of what glorious music lay ahead. Throughout the movement, even in the moments of the most extreme tenderness, the trio maintained a superb sense of ensemble. The Adagio began most delicately by Houstoun and continued on to reveal some perfectly sumptuous phrasing by Balzat. This movement featured some of the finest and best balanced pianissimo passages in the whole trio. Beethoven’s Scherzo is something of a rollicking country dance, complete with the rustic, folky sounds of bagpipes compliments of Houston on the piano. The final Presto, a testing movement for all, featured some rather furious and flawless semi-quaver passages from Houstoun.

Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor gives much greater scope and opportunity to each player than Beethoven. Written just before the outbreak of the Great War, the trio effectively captured the overall sense of foreboding. The opening movement is something of a dreamscape. With its overarching sense of sadness, there are glimpses of tension and trouble as it searches for solace, but not before the trio reaches an agitated climax of fierce energy. The fuller sound and potential of Ravel’s early 20th century trio sound is fully realised in the unmistakable scherzo second movement. Ravel’s third movement began with a chilling wandering theme introduced most-effectively by Houston who was eventually joined by Balzat and then Smith, each with their own haunting subjects. The trio built to a thrilling and angst-ridden unison climax, after which, one by one, the musicians abandoned each other, but not before Smith and Balzat enjoyed a simple lament together. The final movement begins with immense hope – like clouds retreating to make way for the sun. Following some rather unrelenting trill passages for Smith and Balzat, the work moved to an energetic and animated climax of Rachmaninoffian proportions before coming to an almost optimistic ending.

The trio chose a different Beethoven trio to compliment the Ravel trio in their evening concert, deciding upon the famous B-Flat Major Trio (known sometimes as the Archduke). A brilliant example of Beethoven’s second period, the Archduke differs in many ways from his earlier more classical trio. In this work, the Argyle Trio achieved such perfect playing and superb musicianship the likes of which is rarely heard. After an appropriately stately introduction by Houstoun in the first movement, one by one the strings made their entrances. Balzat introduced the animated theme of the Scherzo which was quickly taken over by Smith before being joined by Houston who accompanied their pizzicati. After a fugue which never quite makes it off the ground, there was a fantastic and stirring glimpse of a Viennese waltz. The tender and delicate Andante perhaps features not only one of the most sublime moments in Beethoven’s chamber music output, but also featured some of the most divine moments in the evening’s concert. The final charming Allegro introduces an uncharacteristically childish theme by Beethoven which led into a high energy Presto with some truly impressive unison playing by the Argyle strings, not to be outdone by Houston’s own impressive and glorious contribution to end the Archduke most satisfactorily.

Perhaps now, more than ever, we were in need of this concert. The fact that Tauranga Musica, Baycourt, and the Argyle Trio were all able to overcome a variety of obstacles to be able to offer the public a concert of this caliber and quality right now is to their credit. Mention must also be made of the tremendously generous support of the Tauranga Musica sponsors whose kindness and passion for chamber music ensured the success of this concert.

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