United Kingdom Brahms, Schubert, Shostakovich: Rustem Hayroudinoff (piano), Soloists of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Wigmore Hall, London. 30.6.2012 (RB)
Brahms: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 101
Schubert: Piano Quintet in A Major, D 667 (‘Trout’)
Shostakovich: Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57
This was one of a series of chamber concerts at the Wigmore Hall featuring soloists of the LPO. For this recital they were joined by Rustem Hayroudinoff in a selection of chamber works for piano and strings from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The concert opened with Brahms’ C minor Piano Trio, which is a late work, composed in 1886 at the same time as the Second sonatas for Violin and for Cello. Some of the string writing is highly extrovert and Brahms may have composed it in preparation for his final orchestral work, the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello. Hayroudinoff was joined by the co-leader of the LPO, Peter Shoeman on violin and by the orchestra’s principal cello, Kristina Blaumane. The opening movement is full of rich orchestral sonorities and the trio did an excellent job in achieving a good balance between the piano part with its dense writing and the string players. The lyrical second subject was played with expressive autumnal warmth although occasionally I would have welcomed a richer and more expressive sound from Blaumane. The second movement is a spectral scherzo and I was impressed with the deftness of the exchanges between all three players and with the subtle interplay of light and shade. The andante grazioso slow movement featured some highly eloquent phrasing from both string players while Hayroudinoff played the musical box theme with elegance but without being mawkish. The finale is an unsettled allegro molto and the trio did a good job in navigating their way through the disparate thematic material. I was not entirely persuaded that they successfully conveyed the underlying sense of structural cohesion but the final coda was powerful and exciting.
The trio were joined by Alexander Zemtsov on viola and Kevin Rundell on double bass for Schubert’s perennially popular ‘Trout’ quintet. The opening of the first movement created a sense of magical expectation before the quintet launched into the allegro vivace, which they took at a brisk pace. Peter Shoeman was particularly impressive in the way in which he vocalised Schubert’s immortal melodies and the passage work was well articulated. Hayroudinoff’s opening melody in the andante second movement was played with real Classical charm but without being precious. Blaumane and Zemtsov played the inner voices with lyrical sensitivity and I liked the way all of the players handled the dotted rhythms. The scherzo was rhythmically tight and played with considerable impetus and drive while the tonal and dynamic shading was well judged. The variations in the fourth movement are so popular it must be an almost impossible task to play this piece with any degree of freshness and spontaneity. The quintet brought out the distinctive features of each of the variations and I particularly liked Blaumane’s playing of the penultimate variation. However, the first and last variations did not quite have that sense of infinite sparkle and playfulness that they can have. The finale was played with considerable exuberance and vibrancy with Hayroudinoff clearly enjoying himself with Schubert’s dotted rhythms.
Vessline Gellev on second violin joined Hayroudinoff, Shoeman, Zemtsov and Blaumane for the Shostakovich piano quintet. This work was composed in 1940, a few years after the Fifth Symphony and marks the composer’s return to official favour. It was first performed by the composer and the Beethoven Quartet in December 1940 and is in five movements. The first movement is a prelude and fugue, reflecting the composer’s lifelong admiration for Bach. Hayroudinoff’s phrasing of the rhetorical flourishes on the piano was well shaped while the other players really seemed to dig into their strings and to bring out the intensity of the music. The fugal adagio is a long and difficult work to sustain and it started off well with Shoeman giving a sense of whispered other worldliness to the opening subject. The voicing and clarity of line was generally pretty good although I lost the sense of narrative flow as the music unfolded. The caustic scherzo had real bite and the gypsy fiddle interludes were well handled by Shoeman and Zemtsov. There was some exceptionally graceful and flowing playing from the string players in the opening of the intermezzo while Hayroudinoff seemed to capture the sense of meditative searching in the piano writing. The finale is a curious and elusive piece that is difficult to pin down. Hayroudinoff realised perfectly the quirkiness of the opening theme and the quintet successfully achieved a bright sound for the martial second subject. There were some artful perorations from Shoeman before the movement seemingly vanished into thin air.
Altogether, this was a highly rewarding evening of mature and well executed chamber music from the LPO Soloists and Hayroudinoff, and I would encourage readers to go to future concerts in the series.