Introducing Quercus Trio

2023 Continuo Composer Melody Eötvös has chosen Quercus Trio as the ensemble for whom she will compose the commissioned work.

Published by Helen Vorrath, 17 March 2024


2023 Continuo Composer Melody Eötvös has chosen Quercus Trio as the ensemble for whom she will compose the commissioned work.

Quercus Trio is a Melbourne-based horn trio dedicated to performing the finest chamber music, comprising Carla Blackwood (horn), Elizabeth Sellars (violin) and Rhodri Clark (piano).  The unique combination of violin, horn and piano provides an extensive palette of colours and musical possibilities which the trio delights in exploiting.  Quercus are particularly interested in championing new and Australian works that feature this combination of instruments.  The three members have all developed international reputations performing in many of the world’s premiere ensembles and concert halls, and each brings a unique musical flavour to the group.  They aim to expand the horn-trio repertoire through new commissions and by drawing attention to underperformed repertoire.  Quercus trio is a joyful group; Rhodri, Liz and Carla are united by a deep affection for each other and for creating music together. 

Curious about the name? It derives from the Latin word for oak, a genus of around 600 species belonging to the beech family.  The group were drawn to this name after Carla’s sound was described by a composer as “like an oak tree,” and were inspired by this connection between the horn’s sound and the physicality of the wood in the violin and piano.  Added to this is the symbolism of large and timeless oak trees, connecting through earth and rooted in place, and yet reaching through time and space.  An acorn grows its roots deep into Australian soil and becomes an oak tree, wholly itself and of the place where it stands, whilst still being connected to its European origins and genus.   Just as western classical music flourishing in Australia is rooted in its European origins, connected to its idiom around the world, and yet uniquely of the place where it is performed and conceived.

This idea of the oak tree resonated with Melody. Like the oak, her family roots are European, but she has grown up in Australia. It is a theme she plans to use as inspiration for her new work. 

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In 2023, Quercus Trio released an album of Australian Horn Trios. Here’s a review from Classikon:

“When I was a teenager in the late 1960’s there was a lot of ‘noise’ about new rock groups being formed from members who left  other bands and the best of these were called ‘supergroups’. … For whatever reason the term ‘supergroup’ was not used in classical music circles but today I declare I have come across one from Melbourne, QUERCUS TRIO, made up of stars from other ensembles.

Carla Blackwood horn, Elizabeth Sellars violin, Rhodri Clarke piano are all virtuosi in their own right and with years of performing in different ensembles behind them they bring to this group such an awesome knowledge. Blackwood can produce heroic music one second before enchanting with an ethereal music from the heavens. Sellars weaves such a sweet tone and can also turn on the power when required and Clarke is the pianist I am sure every composer wants to interpret their music.
From the otherworldly opening of Smalley’s Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano through to the last moments of the trio by Don Banks the playing is sensational. The recording is fresh and the whole CD shows excellent production values.”

There are some video excerpts of Quercus Trio playing works from the album on the Quercus Trio website.