Best Classical Album finalist - 2010 NZ Music Awards



Justine Cormack (violin)
Ashley Brown (cello)
Sarah Watkins (piano)


Flourishes is the third album by one of New Zealand’s most accomplished classical groups. Playing with the boundaries of contemporary chamber music, NZTrio brings its much-heralded blend of contrasting works to its new album, which provides a snapshot of the type of programme the group loves to perform live.

The trio thrives on pushing the boundaries of contemporary chamber music. Justine, Ashley and Sarah first joined forces in 2002, and were Ensemble in Residence at the University of Auckland from 2004-2009. From the outset their artistry, intensity, and approachability has captivated music lovers both here in New Zealand and abroad.

NZTrio actively commissions works by leading New Zealand and composers, and collaborates with musicians of diverse musical styles. On Flourishes, commissions by Wayan Yudane and Eve de Castro Robinson are very much at home among the masterworks of Mozart and Ravel, and Arvo Pärt’s lovely take on a Mozart Adagio. Collectively they form what the trio calls a ‘fascinating and unexpected mix’.

"The crowning glory of these performances is Ravel's Piano Trio. I did feel that in the Pantoum movement the trio is a little cautious in their tempo, but they do play the movement with a suitable lightness of touch. The performances throughout this disc show what a classy ensemble the New Zealand Trio has become, and the disc is another feather in the cap for the Rattle label."
Pressing On, Radio New Zealand Concert, May 29, 2010


Visit the NZTrio website





RAT-D019 (May, 2010)

This recording was produced with the support of Creative New Zealand.


Production: Marc Taddei
Recording: Steve Garden  
Design: 4is 





The piano trio originally developed in the eighteenth century as a genre suited to amateur music making, but when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart turned his hand to the medium, he transformed it into the art form we know today. Mozart wrote significantly taxing piano parts (he wrote them for himself to play), and elevated violin and cello from accompanying roles to positions of equal prominence.

The Bb major Trio, completed in 1786 in Vienna, is now a well-established and much-loved concert piece. The heart of the piece is the exquisite slow movement with its beautiful melodic lines and graceful embellishments. This is flanked by movements of captivating verve and energy.


Arvo Pärt is one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary classical music. He is best known for his ‘tintinnabuli’ style (literally, ‘like the ringing of bells’), where the music is characterised by simple harmonies, often single unadorned notes or triad chords. A deeply spiritual man, Pärt’s music has been described as having “a beauty at once austere and sensuous that seems to be hardly of our time.” LIFFY: This is a quote, so we have to acknowledge the source. The alternative is to drop it or paraphrase it:   A deeply spiritual man, Pärt’s compositions have an austere, sensuous beauty that evokes music from another age.

mozart-adagio is an arrangement of the second movement of Mozart’s piano sonata in F minor K. 280. While the basic structure of the original has been left intact, Pärt has coloured key phrases and harmonies, and has also explored new sonorities and textures between the strings and piano, resulting in a piece which is a truly unique blend of styles from across the centuries.



I Wayan Gde Yudane is a leading talent among the new generation of Balinese composers. He has produced many award-winning works for concert performance, theatre, sound installations and film. A resident of Wellington, Yudane is co-director of the Balinese ensemble Gamelan Taniwha Jaya, and continues to teach gamelan at the New Zealand School of Music.

The composer writes:
Entering the stream
as if a point of no return has been reached
as light illuminating a moment of darkness
or sound log passed into silence
no trace remains, no desire or need
the stream holds life in its sway
constant flow, forever in a state of
flux, of uncertainty, our thoughts
and senses grasp the music
our craving devours beauty
yet the moment of realisation
is when time recedes
as fast as we think
we have possessed it.
So, enter the stream
for you will never
be the same again
you were never
the same


Entering the stream was commissioned by NZTrio in 2009, with funding from Creative New Zealand.



Eve de Castro-Robinson is one of this country's foremost composers. Her works have won many awards, and have been performed in NZ, Australia, Japan, Europe, USA and Great Britain.

The title and words used in the piece are taken from the poem Archipelago by Denys Trussell:

At water’s birth / the light deluge, /amen of stars / losing energy / earthwards / at the joining / of elements / the sea and / the eye of / the fish holding / the world / in its glance. / This liquid rhythm / of space, this / blue turning / of the worlds water archipelago / floating / in the lights deluge / of the world / before its word

Eve writes: I have found Trussell’s poetry particularly inspiring for music. There is a concern with ecology, geology, mythology and identity in the poems, which acts for me as a springboard to musical utterances of a ritualistic type - hence the vocalisations, whistling, and other heightened sonorities that pervade the work. The meandering sections of the music suggest a relationship with the forces of water, its depth, currents and undercurrents. The rhythm of the words, too, is reflected in those of the music.

At water’s birth was commissioned by NZTrio in 2008, with funding from Creative New Zealand.



Maurice Ravel took his inspiration from many sources: fellow French musicians such as Satie and Chabrier, the rhythms and language of jazz, the exoticism of far-off Eastern lands, and a myriad of European harmonies and styles both old and new. Yet it is the music of his native Basque country that permeates his Piano Trio of 1914.

The first movement, Modéré, is dominated by an insistent Basque rhythm (3+2+3) and clear modal harmonies. Pantoum takes its title from an elaborate Malaysian verse form, and is a sprightly, playful dance. The Passacaille forms the emotional core of the work, in which the haunting opening theme in the bass of the piano is repeated in various instrumental and textural combinations. Final begins with supremely delicate string harmonics. The movement, which again contains an element of rhythmic uncertainty, travels through a palate of colours and oriental sonorities, culminating in a coda that borders on the orchestral in sound and brilliance.




A watery theme pervades NZTrio's third album, particularly the new commissions – "Entering the Stream" by Wellington-based Indonesian composer Wayan Gde Yudane and "At Water's Birth" by Auckland's Eve de Castro-Robinson. Yudane's eddying piano, playful pizzicato and occasional jazz harmonies contrast with de Castro-Robinson's sombre otherworldliness. Well known for commissioning, the NZTrio hit on a couple of stunners here. Works by Arvo Part, Mozart and Ravel complete the recording.
Amy Cameron, Metro magazine

NZTrio are a truly high-quality piano trio whose concerts are a mixture of the established classics from a rich repertoire and new music, much of which they commission themselves. But I'm not sure they always get the mix right in concert; in their eagerness to create a more progressive image they often offer a musical mish-mash. But make no mistake they are superb musicians and this new CD shows this in spades. But does a mix of Mozart, Ravel, Arvo Part and two New Zealand domiciled composers make a satisfactory release? The works by Wellington-based Indonesian composer I Wayan Gde Yudane and Aucklander Eve de Castro Robinson are both fascinating pieces, but they may find a divided market for those wanting the established classics. Whatever, those deciding to purchase will be rewarded by superb playing and rich recording, highlighted by a stunning assumption of Ravel's wonderful Piano Trio - a performance that would be reason enough to buy the disc.
John Button, Dominion Post

Sarah Watkins (piano), Justine Cormack (violin) and Ashley Brown (cello) have played together since forming this trio in 2002, and they have developed a splendid rapport. This is their third album, which features the same varied programme the group played in Dunedin last November.
It ranges from Mozart's Piano Trio K.502, to Ravel's Piano Trio, with contemporary works by Aarvo Part, Indonesian Wayan Yudane, and New Zealand composer Eve de Castro-Robinson. The last two wrote commissioned works for the trio.
Mozart sparkles and his ideas are explored by Part in a reconstruction of an adagio movement from a piano sonata.

The major work is the Ravel trio, which is beautifully played, apart from the second movement's sprightly dance lagging slightly in tempo.
Highlight: Yudane's gamelan-influenced Entering the Stream, with imitative birdcalls.
Geoff Adams, Otago Daily Times

The Rattle label does good work promoting New Zealand music. Flourishes frames two reflective commissions from local composers, I Wayan Gde Yudane’s “Entering the Stream” and Eve de Castro-Robinson’s “At water’s birth”, with Mozart’s K502 and Ravel’s splendid Piano Trio. Also in the mix is Arvo Part’s 1992 “Mozart-adagio”, the Estonian composer’s intriguing injection of space into the slow movement of piano sonata K280. The range is impressive, less so the audio production, with somewhat veiled sound and short track separation.
Jonathan Le Cocq, The Listener