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Concert Review: Trio Grand-Duc

By Alex Binkley on September 18, 2016

Trio Grand-Duc is a relative newcomer to the Canadian classical music scene but if their performance at MacKay United Church Friday September 16, is any indication of their potential, the three young musicians have a brilliant future ahead. Pianist Justine Pelletier, Julia MacLaine (Assistant Principal Cellist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra) and Victor Fournelle-Balin (Assistant Principal Violinist of the Montreal Symphony) created the group.

Grand-Duc refers to the Great Horned Owl, a bird the Trio members consider mysterious, wild and majestic.

The performance opened with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in G major No. 39 which enabled Pelletier to demonstrate her skills on the keyboard of the large Yamaha piano at the Church. She set the pace for her companions. MacLaine and Fornelle-Balin, as they did all night, backed up her notes with skilful accompaniment.

The second presentation was Antonin Dvořák’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 30 the Dumky. A challenging composition in six parts, the piece enabled the trio to show how well they complement each other’s musical talents. Dvořák was influenced by Slavic folk music when he composed the piece which regularly changes its tempo and pace challenging the musicians to keep up.

The concluding piece was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B-flat major Op 97. A four part composition was written in 1814 when the composer was in is contemplative and melancholic mood and his creative energy was at its peak as deafness descended on him.

In addition to its wonderful acoustics, MacKay United allows the audience to sit close to the musicians and it’s always a treat to watch the players’ expressions and movements as they perform. Pelletier was straight faced much of the time but her head bobbed about in time with the music.

Trio Grand-Duc has three videos on YouTube which capture their energy and music. Pelletier is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and has won numerous prizes including firsts in Le Prix d’Europe and the Jeunesses Musicales Canada Competiton. She has performed with Montreal Symphony. MacLaine, also a Juilliard graduate, has performed around the world. Fournelle-Balin has been a soloist with several orchestras as well as a chamber player.