The Oberon Piano trio will perform in Goa on 21 February 2013 at 6.30 pm at NIO auditorium, Dona Paula. Free passes are available from Furtados Music store Panjim.

The musicians (Henja Semmler violin; Antoaneta Emanuilova cello; Jonathan Aner piano) spoke to Navhind Times in an exclusive interview.

Oberon Trio latest (1)

What is your impression of India so far?

JA: It’s my first time here! So far, my experience in India has been amazing. It’s my very first time here, and the people are so friendly; it’s fantastic.

HS: Antoaneta and I were in India last year, with the Mahler Chamber Soloists. It’s wonderful to be back, and to meet old friends and to perform this time as the Oberon trio.

AE: We’re very keen to see how the public will react to our concert. When we performed in India last year, we had also played different styles of music. We’re looking forward to this new exchange.

Tell us about your programme. It includes works by Haydn, Brahms and Shostakovich…

JA: Yes! We start our programme with two trios, one by Haydn (Hob XV:27), the other by Brahms (Opus 87). They are both in the key of C major, ostensibly the most basic in the western key tonality. It’s amazing to see how differently these two composers treat this key. Haydn starts seemingly in a conversational manner. It’s like a conversation between the different instruments. The phrases are quite clear and very symmetrical, but with many different ideas.

And Brahms deceives us at the beginning of the trio: it starts with four bars where there is not one single flat or sharp. It’s just diatonic. But then all of a sudden he starts entering different harmonic zones, making it completely complicated, as if to mock the ‘simpleness’ of C major, making out of it a gigantic architecture and scope.

However, both pieces are relatively bright and positive in their expression.

HS: Last year, we had also played a work by Brahms: the clarinet quintet. And I remember that Indian audiences were especially touched by this work. So I’m curious to see how they’ll like this piano trio also by him.

Didn’t Haydn choose C major to introduce the light of the Sun in his Creation oratorio?

JA: Yes! It starts in C minor, and then it bursts into C major when the Sun makes its appearance. It’s a key with a lot of inner meaning.

So do you think composers give a lot of thought to the keys they choose for their compositions?

JA: This is certainly true in the case of this Brahms work, yes. C major is a very “non-Romantic” key. Romantic composers used more complex keys. So when a Romantic composer uses a key that is so ‘simple’, he has an idea behind it. I think Brahms is toying with us. He starts as if it’s the most simple piece he ever composed, but then all of a sudden he enters all those complications that make this piece an amazing adventure.

Does the Brahms work ‘sit well’ under the fingers for a pianist, as being in C major it would employ the white keys most of the time?

JA: Astonishingly, quite the opposite. This is because, as our fingers are not even in length, it is much more convenient for the fingers of the hand to be on white as well as black keys, than on just the whites!

What about the Shostakovich?

JA: The second half of the programme is a complete contrast to the first: We play the second piano trio (Opus 67) of Dmitri Shostakovich in E minor. It is a piece composed at the end of the Second World War. It is in its way a lament of the loss of so many human lives: of a personal friend, of the loss of so many soldiers, and also laments the death of so many Jewish people, that we know today as the Holocaust.

So it is a very contrasting, yet complementary programme.

HS: Last year we had also played Mozart, in G minor, a rather dark programme. This time, the second half of our programme is maybe the darkest I’ve ever played in India! The Shostakovich is tougher, and I’m curious to see how the audience reacts to it, as well as to the Haydn and Brahms.

AE: There are several technical challenges in the programme, but we have been working hard, and you will hear the results at our concert!

Tell us a little about Oberon piano trio. When was it formed?

Oberon piano trio was originally formed in 2006. The violinist Henja Semmler and I knew each other as students at the Academy of Music in Lübeck, Germany. We had tremendous respect for each other, and decided we wanted to play chamber music together. Back then, we had a different cellist, and we had a wonderful experience making music together. But he has recently chosen a different path, and now we’ve recruited Antoaneta Emanuilova, with whom we share a great understanding and have a lot of fun, making music together.

And the three of you also have solo careers?

JA: Yes! After the India tour, I go to Israel, to give several concerts there.

AE: I go to perform in Budapest.

HS: I go home for a short while, and then to Italy, Germany and Spain, also for concerts!

But we’ll all meet later in the year to rehearse and perform again as a trio!


(An edited version of this article appeared in the Navhind Times Goa India on 20 February 2013)