In the midst of premiering new works by Mark Hagerty, Bright Sheng and Jennifer Barker and getting ready to make their debut at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall next February, the self-described crossover piano trio 6 wire have issued a recording engineered by Grammy-winner Andreas Meyer that showcases their unique sound and repertoire.
In fact, 6 wire is not a piano trio in the traditional sense. The University of Delaware’s ensemble-in-residence is made up of a conventional Western, four-string violin, a two-string Chinese erhu – the six wires from which the group takes it name – and piano. The sound of the three instruments together, and in various configurations with Chinese zither, cello and sound effects, seems to inevitably become a fascinating game of contrasts between the sweet, soaring timbres of Xiang Gao’s violin and Cathy Yang’s huskier and sexier erhu.
The Chinese ‘folk’ tracks are sweet enough and give the piano more substantial roles; Matthew Brower’s opening solo in Sunrise over the Tashikuergan Desert is more than a minute long. But it is the two pieces by Gao – the nine-minute title-track in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, ending in the sadness of sirens and a children’s song, and Beijinger, dedicated to Malaysian flight 370 – that have the most personal involvement.
Of the seven Western lollipop arrangements, the Bach concerto is the most convincing; while it might not eclipse memories of the iconic Django Reinhardt version from 1937, the erhu joins in so brilliantly that after a while it becomes hard to sort the two string instruments out.