High Quality Playing and Perfect Rapport from Trio Martinů

22/11/2018

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Wimbledon International Music Festival 2018 – Suk, Martinů and Dvořák: Malcolm Messiter (oboe), Trio Martinů, St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, London, 20.11.2018. (AS)

SukElegy in D flat, Op.23

Martinů – Piano Trio No.3 in C, H322; Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Cello and Piano, H315

Dvořák – Piano Trio No.3 in F minor, Op.65

This recital took place as part of the Wimbledon International Music Festival, whose Director, Anthony Wilkinson, founded the event ten years ago. In 1967 Wilkinson produced a BBC film, The Music of Exile: The Life and Music of Bohuslav Martinů, and this was screened before the recital.

Here the events in the composer’s life are depicted by actors, with musical illustrations and a narration by Anthony Burgess. Most remarkably, the film unit was given access to the tower of the St Jakub Church in Polička, a town in Bohemia, close to the Moravian border, in which Martinů was born and spent his early life. Thus scenes in his childhood are enacted in the very building where they had originally taken place. The composer’s progress is then faithfully documented in appropriate locations and the whole is a most sympathetic and sensitive portrait of Martinů’s life and career.

The film formed a very suitable prelude to performances of two Martinů works that date from the early post-war years, when he was living, rather unhappily, in the USA, having been in conflict with the communist regime in his homeland. The Third Piano Trio is partly autobiographical, since after a vigorous, highly charged opening Allegro moderato movement the central Andante is a lament for Vítĕzslava Kaprálová, a talented composer who had died in 1940 when she was just 25 years old. The finale has a feeling of rather forced high spirits, is more astringent harmonically and has rapidly changing meters and rhythms.

The Martinů Trio was formed in 1990, and so it is a highly experienced group. Each player is of the highest quality technically and artistically, and the rapport between them is perfect. They are totally steeped in the music of their homeland and everything they played in this recital seemed completely authentic.

For the Oboe Quartet they were joined by the British oboist Malcolm Messiter. A fine player in his own right, he nevertheless kept a sharp musical eye on his interpretatively authoritative colleagues. Again this work has autobiographical connotations, since the first movement evokes mists swirling round the church tower, and the second recalls the tower’s bells: this leads directly into a fast, quite hectic finale.

The concert had begun with Suk’s Elegy, written in memory of the writer Julius Zeyer, with whom the composer had collaborated. Originally scored for string quartet, harp and harmonium, it was transcribed later by the composer for piano trio. Its beautiful late-romantic passion was superbly realised by the three players.

The second half of the concert comprised Dvořák’s Third Piano Trio, quite a large-scale piece, which possesses, as the programme annotator suggested, distinct echoes of Brahms, notably in the swiftly moving finale. In the slow, sombre third movement there was some particularly lovely, lyrical playing, and strong projection of rhythm and phrase in the quicker movements. Everything seemed quite natural and just as it should be.

Alan Sanders

For more about the Wimbledon International Music Festival click here.

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