Marsyas Trio

flute cello piano

Marsyas Trio takes its name from Greek mythology – inspired by the bold, spirited passion of Marsyas, the celebrated pipe-playing satyr who dared challenge Apollo in a musical contest. In victory, Marsyas lost his life to the envious wrath of the god, saving his last breaths for the instrument he immortalized.  

The London-based Marsyas Trio, formed in 2009 by graduates of the Royal Academy of Music, is dedicated to music for flute, cello & piano from the Classical era to the present day. Aiming to inspire a generation of new works for this genre, they are uncovering lesser-known repertoire and are proactive in commissioning new music. Flautist Helen Vidovich and cellist Valerie Welbanks were joined in January 2017 by pianist Zubin Kanga, internationally acclaimed as a leading exponent of contemporary music, and in October 2017 by associate pianist, the award-winning soloist Olga Stezhko.

The Trio has toured in Europe and China, and performed recently at the Vale of Glamorgan and Three Choirs Festivals, Holywell Music Room (Oxford Chamber Music Society), and in Switzerland at the Société de Musique Contemporaine Lausanne, which was broadcast on the Swiss Radio station RTS Espace 2. The Trio performs in rural Wales as part of the Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme. They have performed live on BBC Radio 3 “In Tune”, Classic FM Bulgaria, and Bulgarian National Television. In 2015 the Marsyas Trio’s debut CD, A Triple Portrait (Meridian Records), featuring a newly commissioned work and other chamber music by Russian émigré composer Elena Firsova. The disc, marking Firsova’s 25-year musical contribution to the UK, received airtime on European radio and reviews internationally including Cambridge Music Journal Tempo, The Strad, and Australia’s Limelight magazine.

Their latest CD, featuring their 2017 commission by Hilary Tann In the Theatre of Air (NMC Recordings October 2018), has already garnered attention. Having debuted at No. 7 on the Classical Charts, the Sunday Times included the disc in The Week’s Essential New Releases, and was given a 4-star rating in the BBC Music Magazine.

The Marsyas Trio has worked with many of Britain’s leading composers, including Michael Finnissy and Judith Weir. Their 2014 commission from the British composer Laura Bowler was premiered as part of a cross-arts project at the Grimeborn Festival (Arcola Theatre, London), with shadow puppetry from Smoking Apples. The Trio regularly works with vocalists; this year, they will be performing recently rediscovered 'Welsh Songs' by Haydn and Beethoven. Their programmes continue to feature little-known repertoire such as flute-cello-piano trios by Amy Beach, Mozart, Clementi, and Mendelssohn's flute transcription of his famous Trio in D minor.

The Marsyas Trio has generously been funded by the PRS Foundation (Open Fund; Women Make Music award), Ambache Charitable Trust, Hinrichsen Foundation, Fidelio Charitable Trust, Britten-Pears Foundation, Arts Council England, and twice by the RVW Trust.

Premiere recordings of the captivating, profound music of Elena Firsova...performed with devoted insight and sensitivity by the Marsyas Trio.
— Julian Haylock, The Strad

Marsyas Trio is generously supported by:

Helen Vidovich completed undergraduate music studies in Melbourne, subsequently moving to Sydney to study with Alison Mitchell and Geoffrey Collins. In 2006 she completed a Master of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium, receiving an Australian Bicentennial Scholarship to assist further postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 2006-07. Helen has been a pupil of Michael Cox and Patricia Morris on piccolo, and more recently has undertaken study with members of the London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. She has also taken part in the LSO Training Scheme, performed under the baton of Sir Colin Davis and completed summer courses and masterclasses in Italy, France, England and Sweden. In Australia she has appeared on several occasions as a concerto soloist with the Sydney Chamber Orchestra. As an orchestral player, Helen has successfully auditioned as a freelance musician with the Welsh National Opera Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. She is currently undertaking additional studies with Sharon Williams (London Symphony Orchestra).

Pianist Zubin Kanga has performed at many international festivals including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham Festival, London Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), ISCM World New Music Days, Metropolis New Music Festival, Melbourne Festival, Four Winds Festival, BIFEM (Australia), IRCAM Manifeste Festival, Mars aux Musées Festival (France) and Borealis Festival (Norway) as well as appearing as soloist with the London Sinfonietta and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Zubin has collaborated with many of the world’s leading composers including Thomas Adès, Michael Finnissy, George Benjamin, Steve Reich, Beat Furrer, Liza Lim, Michel van der Aa and Stefan Prins and premiered more than 70 new works. He is a member of Ensemble Offspring, one of Australia’s leading contemporary music ensembles, and has also performed with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Ensemble Plus-Minus, Endymion Ensemble, Halcyon, Synergy Percussion, and the Kreutzer Quartet, as well as performing piano duos with Rolf Hind and Thomas Adès. Zubin has won many prizes including the 2012 Art Music Award for ‘Performance of the Year (NSW)’, the Michael Kieran Harvey Scholarship, the ABC Limelight Award for Best Newcomer and the Greta Parkinson Prize from the Royal Academy of Music. His recent recordings include Not Music Yet for Hospital Recordings, Orfordness for Metier (UK) and Piano Inside Out for Move Records, which was nominated for Best Classical Album at the Australian Independent Music Awards. A Masters and PhD graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, London, Zubin recently finished post as post-doctoral researcher at the University of Nice and IRCAM, Paris and is currently a Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music. He was the convenor of the Inventing Gestures symposium in the 2015 Manifeste Festival at IRCAM and was the guest editor for a special issue on new interactive technologies in music for Contemporary Music Review. 

Canadian-born Val Welbanks leads a busy chamber music career in London as the cellist of both the Marsyas Trio and the Ligeti Quartet, who are currently resident ensemble at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Goldsmiths London. She is regularly invited as guest cellist of various chamber groups in the UK and in Canada, and has recorded various discs with the Longbow and G-Plus ensembles for Métier, Naxos, and Real World Records. Her most recent appearance as a soloist has been with the Torbay Symphony Orchestra (Dvořák and Lutoslawski Cello Concertos).

Val completed her PhD in 2016, having submitted a thesis codifying modern techniques for the cello (University of London) under the supervision of composer Roger Redgate, and previously the late cellist Alexander Ivashkin. During this time, she undertook studies with Natalia Pavlutskaya. In 2008, she obtained a Masters in Music Performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London, graduating with distinction from Philip Sheppard’s class. Her passion for cross-disciplinary arts sees her often performing in plays, operas, dance productions, and sound installations.

Photographer: Benjamin Harte

...these fine artists weaving some tremendous sounds around each other. They give this work a terrific performance finding out all of its depth and emotion.
— Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer
The Marsyas Trio’s performance is refined; Vidovich’s flute playing languid and sinuous, Ren’s piano delicate and sensitive and Welbanks’ cello lends a darkness and gravitas to the sound without compromising the intimacy of the works.
— Angus McPherson, Limelight Magazine
It is Baudelaire rather than Mandelstam whom Firsova evokes with her most direct tribute to the admirable Marsyas Trio, A Triple Portrait ...At a time when modernism is slowly fading away as a model of choice for younger composers, Firsova’s music makes a plausible case for such deeper, darker echoes.
— Arnold Whittall, Tempo