An Enjoyable Schubertiade in Chipping Campden

20/05/2015

 Schubert: Imogen Cooper (piano), Henning Kraggerud (violin), Adrian Brendel (cello), Chipping Campden Music Festival, St James’ Church, Chipping Campden, 18.5.2015. (RJ)

Piano Trio in B flat Op 99
Piano Trio in E flat Op 100

Since it was founded in 2002 the Chipping Campden Music Festival has grown in stature and popularity and now attracts a truly cosmopolitan audience; on the evening of this Schubert recital I heard American, Italian and Australian voices. Moreover, its impressive line-up of musicans (which this year includes the Takacs Quartet, Paul Lewis, Stile Antico, Tasmin Little, Martin Roscoe and Richard Goode) has not gone unnoticed by the BBC which now broadcasts regularly from the Festival Several of these stars are regular visitors, but few are welcomed back so warmly as that renowned Schubertian Imogen Cooper who this time brought with her two fellow-Schubertians – Henning Kraggerud and Adrian Brendel.

There was a relaxed quality about the first of the two Schubert piano trios. The first movement had an attractive liveliness with strings and piano taking it in turns to come to the fore. Not that the music lacked interest with delicate pianissimos and energetic fortes throughout. As he played the opening melody of the Andante Adrian Brendel seemed to inhabit a different world and when Henning Kraqgarud’s shimmering violin took over from him the effect was nothing short of sublime. The performance was characterised by moments of great delicacy and tenderness in which the music spoke for itself. The Scherzo was a frivolous, lighthearted affair in which the musicians seemed to be having fun, with its plaintive trio providing a delicate contrast. Kragarrud started off the Rondo in fine style with Imogen Cooper taking over from him, her fingers scurrying up and down the keyboard. This was a fast, ebullient movement with melody after melody pouring forth and tremendous rapport between the three players.

The Opus 99 Trio never received the public airing it deserved during Schubert’s lifetime – only a private performance. The Opus 100 fared rather better, though Schubert had only a few months of life left to enjoy its success. In conversation with Petroc Trelawney Adrian Brendel begged to differ with Schumann’s contention that it was “spirited, masculine and dramatic” in contrast to the first trio which was “passive, lyrical and feminine”, while conceding that the E flat major is a tour de force. It is generally regarded as a masterpiece – a bridge between the trios of Beehoven and Brahms.

The first movement opened boldly with all three instruments playing in unison and plenty of dramatic climaxes along the way – expressing “profound indignation and heartfelt longing”. The sad march of the slow movement was a moving experience, its melody introduced by the cello, taken up by the piano and then embellished by Mr Kraggerud. Yet one could sense tension underneath the apparently placid surface with outbursts of anger and later frenzy amongst the measured tones. The rustic scherzo, by contrast, lifted the spirits; one felt would not be out of place in the Scuttlebrook Wake festivities which take place in the town on May 30th. After the piano introduction the final movement provided a thrilling climax to the concert with frequent changes of rhythm and dynamics – fast and furious in places, slow and tender in others – with the three musicians performing brilliant deeds of daring all impeccably synchronised as if they were a troupe of trapeze artists

This has to be one of the most enjoyable concerts I have heard in St James’ Church over the years, and not just not because I had shown foresight in bringing a cushion to sit on. The ambience and accoustics of St James’ Church were the perfect backdrop to a wonderful performance by three leading musicians who not only put their heart into their music but seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience. It seemed very much in the tradition of the Schubertiades, those sessions Schubert used to enjoy with his friends

The concert was broadcast live by the BBC and can be heard on the BBC iplayer for the next month.

The Chipping Campden Music Festival continues until Saturday May 23 with concerts by Richard Goode, Benjamin Appl, The English Concert and the Festival Academy Orchestra (soloists: Paul Lewis, Jack Liebeck, Adrian Brendel and Ruth Rogers). See www.campdenmusicfestival.co.uk.

Roger Jones

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