United Kingdom Haydn, Brahms, Shostakovich, Julia Fischer (violin), Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Simon Trpčeski (piano), Wigmore Hall, London 1.3.2014 (RB)
Haydn – Piano Trio in G HXV: 25 ‘Gypsy Rondo’
Brahms – Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor Op 101
Shostakovich – Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor Op 67
This was one of a series of Wigmore Hall concerts entitled ‘Perspectives’ featuring Julia Fischer in collaboration with other chamber musicians. The three musicians in this concert are all top ranking soloists at the height of their powers and it was a real privilege to listen to musicianship of this quality.
The opening work on the programme was Haydn’s perennially popular ‘Gypsy Rondo’ trio which was published as a set of three in 1795 and dedicated to Rebecca Shroeter. The variations of the opening movement were allowed to unfold elegantly and gracefully – the whole movement was a model of Classical restraint – and the increasingly complex passagework was played with high degree of technical finish. Trpčeski bought out the sunny lyricism of the piano melody in the slow movement while Fischer played the A Major response with a restrained passion. The famous ‘Gypsy Rondo’ movement was full of sparkling brio, the entries razor sharp, and Fisher and Trpčeski both did a splendid job in bringing out the distinctive gypsy flavour of the music.
Brahms’ C minor Piano Trio was written in 1886 while the composer was on holiday in Hofstetten in Switzerland, and it is a big work, full of grand orchestral sonorities and inventive ideas. In the opening movement, Trpčeski did a brilliant job bringing out the power and dynamism of the piano writing while keeping the textures light and transparent and I loved the way the two string players injected emotional warmth into the second subject. The players succeeded in achieving an orchestral breath of sound in this movement although on one or two occasions I was not convinced that the blend of textures was quite right. The second movement was played with an unaffected simplicity and directness while the pizzicato section was co-ordinated seamlessly between the strings and had an intimate feel. The string players excelled in the interweaving textures in the slow movement, with Fischer playing with a radiant burnished tone, while Trpčeski’s entries were expressive giving the music space to breathe. The hunting theme of the finale was played with vigour and gusto and I particularly liked Trpčeski’s handling of the leggiero flourishes, while the fireworks of the coda were electrifying.
The music making of the first half of the concert was of an exceptionally high standard but with the Shostakovich the performances all seemed to go up a notch in what was an unforgettable experience. Shostakovich wrote the work in 1944 when the news of Hitler’s death camps was beginning to leak out to the outside world. It uses Jewish themes, the most famous of which is in the finale, and it is a great cry against anti-Semitism. Müller-Schott seemed to find just the right sound quality with the eerie whispered harmonics of the opening while the subsequent fugal writing was exceptionally clear, and the intensity of the movement was allowed to build in an incremental way. The scherzo was an astonishing piece of playing with the string players producing rasping, trenchant sounds and bringing out the grotesque ugliness of the music while Trpčeski kept the rapid passagework clear and incisive. The elegiac utterances of the slow movement were given plangent nobility by the string players that was deeply affecting and moving. The dance of death finale was a spine-tingling adrenaline-fueled parody with all three players unleashing the dark malevolence of the score.
The trio were greeted with rapturous applause from the Wigmore audience and gave us a supremely lyrical performance of the second movement of Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Trio as an encore.