Belgium ensemble Trio Dali are very serious about having fun with music.

Waterloo is a tiny train platform a short, rattly ride from Brussels. There is no trace of either Napoleon or the Duke of Wellington, and no two-cornered hats in sight. Instead, I receive a blast of exuberant energy from the three young musicians awaiting me in the miniscule station car park.

Violinist Vineta Sareika, pianist Amandine Savary and cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca exude so much good humour and cheer that the short drive to the Queen Elisabeth College of Music is like a party.

Trio Dali has concert a few days hence in Liege, and the college where the trio’s collective life began offers a peaceful setting where the musicians can rehearse together. 

The three musicians, all embarking on successful solo careers, met at a Spanish chamber music festival in Santander five years ago and became friends. It was only when the same festival brought all three back the next year that they decided to play together.

“We found we still had the same kind of friendship, so we decided to make some music together,” recalls Sareika.

“We agreed on everything,” explains La Marca. “It was easy.”

“We understood quite early that it was something special, and we just wanted to continue,” says Sareika.

The group was accepted by the Queen Elisabeth College, where Sareika had already begun studying, and were taught by the eminent Artemis Quartet. The geographical challenges were considerable. “We were living in three different countries –” begins Savary. “ – studying in four different places,” interjects La Marca.

The Trio’s members have a habit of finishing one another’s sentences that is amusing and occasionally unnerving. Sometimes all three answer simultaneously.

Four different places? How did that work?

“It was really difficult,” they chorus.

“Christian-Pierre was living in Paris and studying in Cologne. Amandine was in London, and I was already here,” explains Sareika.

“But we wanted to do it. And we did. And now we are very happy,” continues La Marca.

A glimpse at the trio’s biography is enough to dispel the impression all three of them so happily create, that playing together is effortless. Though new on the scene, Trio Dali has already netted major prizes in competitions in Osaka, New York and Frankfurt; they pursue a busy international touring schedule and list a string of top-level collaborators. 

Their Australian tour program includes Ravel’s piano trio, the work with which the trio made their recording debut and which has become something of a calling-card.

“It has been following us since the beginning,” says Savary. “We never get bored with this music.”

“We feel connected to the French approach, somehow,” adds La Marca. “We were really attracted by all the colours, and Ravel was the perfect piece for that.”

Is there such a thing as a French school of string-playing? La Marca studied with a Swedish teacher in Cologne; Sareika comes from the sleepy seaside resort of Jurmala, a satellite of the Latvian capital, Riga. 

La Marca talks about Sareika’s playing with enthusiasm. “Her quality of sound, especially in the high register, is very delicate,” he says. “What I love about both her and Amandine is the great sensitivity that they produce when they are making music. When they perform, they play with their hearts, and it’s a sincere way of playing.”

Savary immediately returns the compliment. “Christian-Pierre is a great musician also, full of sensitivity and musicality. When we rehearse together, we don’t need words. It’s not about playing notes or playing for the right reason. It’s just what the line is telling and what they want to say to people. And that’s music, for me.”

Sareika speaks about Savary’s playing. “She’s so delicate, and never covers the strings. She always thinks about colours. And when she plays pianissimo, it’s just magical – it’s something completely special.”

The trio agree that these qualities are just as applicable to Schubert or Gordon Kerry, whose music they play on their Australian tour, as they are to Ravel. They have all had contact with period instruments, and they have also spent time working on new music.

Musica Viva’s suggestion that they should play Gordon Kerry’s Im Winde fell on fertile ground. “It’s very atmospheric music, and I had the impression that it’s music which speaks to people from the first minute,” says Sareika. “He uses interesting effects, some wonderful colours in the string writing. It’s a discovery.”

“Also, working with a living composer is completely different,” La Marca says. “Sometimes you want to ask Brahms or Beethoven, ‘Please can you tell us what we should do here?’”

Interpretation, says Sareika, demands an element of individual freedom, and they try to bring to
well-known historical works the same kind of imaginative freedom that new music gives them.

It was this idea which gave rise to their name. Trio Dali has nothing to do with the artist Salvador. Rather, they are named after a Chinese city famous for its marble, from which beautiful artefacts are traditionally made. They liked the idea of the score as raw material, with the musicians as masons whose job is to make something precious, transforming stone into art.

At the moment, the young musicians are buzzing with excitement about a different kind of transformation in their collective life.

“We will all be living in the same city,” announces Sareika.

“From now, actually,” begins
La Marca.

“After five years,” continues Savary.

“In two days, officially,” interjects Sareika.

“ – we will all be living in Paris. Finally,” says La Marca.

So Waterloo will become a part of the trio’s biography, and their focus will shift to what they say are similarly idyllic rehearsal facilities in the French capital. 

And balancing solo with trio commitments?“All three of us think that trio is part of a solo achievement, in a way,” says La Marca.

“Actually, there is not really trio or solo,” says Sareika.

“There is just music,” concludes La Marca.   

The Trio Dali tour Australia with Musica Viva from May 15 to June 2. Hear the trio on ABC Classic FM on May 22 at 7pm.