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Saturday, 4 July 2015

Report from Thaxted Festival : The Gould Piano Trio on fine form

This is a review of a concert given by The Gould Piano Trio at Thaxted Festival

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


30 June

This is a review of a concert given by The Gould Piano Trio at Thaxted Festival
on Friday 26 June 2015 at 8.00 p.m.





John Ireland (18791962) : Phantasie Trio in A Minor


The concert opened with John Ireland, in a lively, spirited mode of writing : as his one-movement Phantasie Trio* developed, it seemed to fill Thaxted Church (for @ThaxtedFestival) with the sunshine of his expression**. An impression of excitement grew, and, with the composer having revelled in his thematic material, the work ended joyously.


The only comparison that comes to mind is the old Beaux Arts Trio; the combination of jeweler-like precision and a musical fire that ignites from the first bar

The Washington Post (quoted on The Trio's (@GouldPianoTrio's) web-site))



Felix Mendelssohn (18091847) : Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49

1. Allegro molto ed agitato

2. Andante con moto tranquillo

3. Scherzo

4. Finale



In introducing the piece, pianist Benjamin Frith told us that Schumann had called this Trio the greatest work for this combination of players since Beethoven’s so-called Archduke Trio (the Piano Trio No. 7 in B Flat Major, Op. 97), and offered it to us as ample evidence that Mendelssohn was not ‘running out of steam’ (and as a work that cellist Alice Neary had already had the chance to record with the Trio) :




It opened, with an Allegro molto ed agitato, and the wonderful, full sound of the cello the ensemble was rich, and Frith brought a great lightness to his playing. Next, came an Andante con moto tranquillo, where the instrumentalists brought out beautiful, affecting qualities in the music, and where it was not only played with tenderness, but also a well-judged sense of pace and for placing notes within the texture.

Energetic playing marked the Scherzo, full of richness, and sharpness of tone, and brought it to a witty end. The Finale was highly expressive, with the vibrant sound of Neary on cello. Lines were passed so easily between the members of the Trio, and there was such evidence of very good listening going on between them, that it was a pleasure, often complete with a broad smile, to listen to them.



Franz Schubert (17971828) : Piano Trio No. 1 in B Flat Major, Op. 99 (D. 898)

1. Allegro moderato

2. Andante un poco mosso

3. Scherzo (Allegro)

4. Rondo (Allegro vivace Presto)


The feeling of the Allegro moderato was that it was both lyrical and rhythmic, with the sounds of the instruments, even as before, being so integrated, and the players so responsive to each other. As the movement progressed, it felt as though it had its own flow, with moments or under-currents of the dance. In the second movement, marked Andante un poco mosso, peace reigned, and there was a melding of sounds. Then, the mood became more sombre, before some delicate playing by Frith led to an evocation of a dream, as if in a Schumannesque vein. Finally, on violin and piano, and brought back from the opening, a version of the theme that gave the sensation of the end of summer.

The third movement, marked Allegro, has some more gestural writing, expressively brought out by Lucy Gould (on violin) and with a more ‘brittle’ quality in the piano part. Just when we think that the Scherzo might already be over, Schubert gives a central section, which felt more inner than what had preceded it, standing back from it, and making a vivid contrast when the initial mood resumes.

The Rondo (Allegro vivace) opened with a jaunty violin theme, on which the cello made comments, before – as with the Scherzo Schubert goes into another world of feeling, this time one of fleeting, mini-variations, amongst them a mixture of modulations and moods, from carefree to serious (but punctuated by the five-note Rondo motif, essentially rising, but with a fall after the first interval). When the opening material finally returned, the Gould Piano Trio managed to hold back, as it pushed on to the end, and rapturous applause.


End-notes

* The Trio, with its former cellist, made an all-Ireland recording [not in that old sense, of bragging] for Naxos, which includes his two other Piano Trios (of which Trio No. 2 (in E Major) is also in one movement, of similar length), whereas this line-up brings us another album :




** It was, indeed, a very pleasant evening, not just for the (for some reason) relatively unappreciated genre of chamber music (for an offer had been made that made it quite impossible, having heard cellist Alice Neary play live, not to invite a friend...), but also for delicious maple and pecan cake in the interval (the nuts had been toasted perfectly).




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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