'The hypnotic nature is what we have really enjoyed about it': An Interview with the Amatis Trio

The Amatis Trio – Mengjie Han, Lea Hausmann and Samuel Shepherd

'The hypnotic nature is what we have really enjoyed about it': An Interview with the Amatis Trio

Acclaimed trio to premiere new work by Amanda Feery in 8-date Irish tour.

The Amatis Trio – Lea Hausmann (violin), Samuel Shepherd (cello) and Mengjie Han (piano) – are about to embark on an eight-date Music Network tour of Ireland, beginning on 8 October, and including a work by Amanda Feery. The story of how the trio came together is surprising, as cellist Samuel Shepherd told The Journal of Music.

Shepherd was studying in Amsterdam, and violinist Lea Hausmann from Germany came on a six-month Erasmus course.

We needed to make a little extra money for our Bachelor’s degree, so Lea and I started playing on the streets together – busking – and it went really well. I realised she obviously had a lot of chamber music experience, as did I at the time, and we had a very good connection in our sound. 

Hausmann then discovered an upcoming chamber music competition at the famous Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, but they needed a pianist.

We went to this piano competition and basically found Mengjie [Han], asked him to join us, went into rehearsals, won the competition, and got our first recital at Concertgebouw after about three weeks of performing – we got off to a quick start.

The trio went on to win the 2015 International Parkhouse Award in Wigmore Hall, and have been recently selected as ‘Rising Stars’ by the European Concert Hall Organisation, which will see them perform in 23 venues across Europe.

‘Foundation for everything else we do’
Now together four years, the musical identity of the trio is very much rooted in the classical repertoire of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, and they use it as the foundation of their programmes. The Irish tour will begin with the Haydn Trio in C, Hob XV:27. It’s the directness and clarity of Haydn’s music that appeals to the group.

It’s the speaking element of it… You have to attach words to everything you do, so there’s always a punctuation, there’s always an emphasis, and they use to write music with it in mind…

That was a key feature of classical music that started to be less and less regarded as we went through the Romantic era, and there’s something so natural about it as a result. You can understand the music from what’s written. You don’t have to start searching behind and trying to evoke certain emotions constantly. It’s a very beautifully designed diagram of what you are meant to be doing. It’s the foundation for everything else we do.

Their Irish programme also revolves around the idea of dialogue, and, after the Haydn, the trio introduce works that develop and deconstruct this idea. The Schumann Trio No. 3 in G-minor is ‘basically a lovers’ dialogue’, says Shepherd.

It’s a dialogue between violin and cello. At times they speaking in a tender way, at times they are having an argument with each other, and that’s the ultimate extension of what we start with – the Haydn.

From dense to hypnotic
The final work in their concert, the Mendelssohn trio in D minor, Op. 49, ‘is maybe more dense and [the dialogue] becomes less obvious in a certain way, but that’s the whole point of structuring the programme like this. It starts to deconstruct.’

The Mendelssohn is more admired because of how it uses the trio. The piano part is huge… and the strings are used for what they are good at, which is creating this really singing texture.

The Amatis will also perform a new Music Network commission by Irish composer Amanda Feery titled ‘Gone to Earth’. The Amatis have had many works written for them, most recently by Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi. Shepherd feels that the Feery trio has an hypnotic quality.

It’s really interesting. It’s got a lot of atmosphere behind it and it’s very hypnotic music. There’s maybe some influences of John Cage… The hypnotic nature is what we have really enjoyed about it because it’s quite unusual to find that in a trio. It’s difficult to combine these instruments.

This is the first Irish tour by the trio, although they have performed here before, most recently last year in Sligo. The group also have ambitions to establish their own chamber music festival in Ireland.

The Amatis Trio will begin their 8-date tour at the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar on 8 October before visiting St Finian’s Church, Dublin (10 Oct.), the Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely (11 Oct.), Tullynally Castle in Castlepollard (12 Oct.), Triskel in Cork (13 Oct.), Siamsa Tíre in Tralee (14 Oct.), All Saints Church in Castleconnell, Co. Limerick (16 Oct.) and finishing in the Georgian Large Room in Waterford on 17 October.

For further details and tickets, visit www.musicnetwork.ie/concerts/details/amatis_piano_trio

Published on 3 October 2018

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