Bordering on Alchemy with the London Trio’s Secret Transparency of Shadows

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Suk, Smetana, Bruno-Videla, Dvorak: The London Trio { Robert Atchison (violin), Olga Dudink (piano), and David Jones (cello)}, Brunswick Methodist Church, St Helen’s Road, Swansea, 29.3.14 (LJ).


Suk, Piano Trio C Major Op. 2
, Piano Trio G Minor, Op. 15
, Preludio y Toccata, Op. 19 for solo violin
, Piano Trio No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 90 ‘Dumky’.

On Saturday 29th March, Swansea’s Brunswick Methodist Church hosted the London Piano Trio as part of Crwth’s concert series. The Trio performed a predominantly Czech programme, apart from Atchison’s Argentinian flavoured solo. Described as ‘simply world class’ and heralded as a ‘national treasure’, the musicians not only performed with the level of grace and class expected of them by Crwth regulars, but added freshness and integrity making this Saturday night truly unforgettable. Improvisational in their spontaneity and gratifying in their professionalism, they conveyed Delacroix’s secret ‘transparency of shadows’, which (as Chopin added) ‘borders on alchemy’. In short, this was a magical concert.

Beginning with Josef Suk’s Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 2 composed in 1889, the London Piano Trio extracted Suk’s youthful emotions and sassy felicity and carefully balanced these lighter, optimistic touches with the assertive and more declamatory opening. Olga Dudink’s piano playing was imaginatively captivating throughout and complemented Atchison’s rich tones and Jones’s lyricism.

Bedrich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15 is an altogether more interesting and consummate piece. A composition which emerged out of Smetana’s grief over the death of his four year old daughter Bedriska, who succumbed to scarlet fever on September 6th 1855, this piece is both tender and despairing. The first undisputedly nationalistic Czech composer, Smetana’s pieces can seem both grand and patriotic as he outpours personal cries of woe alongside irrepressible passion. Alluding to this multiplicity and picking out the Eastern-European folk influences, the Trio were  touching in their sensitivity and rawness.

After a brief interval, Atchison returned to perform Lucio Bruno-Videla’s Preludio y Toccata, Op. 19 for solo violin. Muscular and rhythmical, Atchison tackled the complexity of Bruno-Videla’s composition without sounding showy or pompous.

In Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90, more commonly known as his Dumky Trio, the Trio  exceeded expectations in a dazzlingly skilful and seductively sonorous performance. A brooding, introspective composition interspersed with more light-hearted segments, Dvorak’s ‘Dumka’ is a piece of astonishing range and variation of feeling. Music critic Daniel Felsenfeld describes his compositional form of his ‘dark fantasia’ as being ‘structurally simple’ but ‘emotionally complicated’, as ‘dizzying, heavy’ and ‘through it all, a little light-hearted’. Consisting of six dumky sections, both the interrelatedness of the first three and the distinct individuality of the latter episodes were harmoniously tied together by the musical interrelatedness of the three musicians who seemed to guide and follow each other with seamless intuitiveness.

Apart from the trio’s exquisite interpretation, tone, technical prowess and togetherness, their unique quality lies in their astounding colour and vibrancy. In A Travers Chants, Berlioz commented that ‘Instrumentation is, in music, the exact equivalent of colour in painting’. Following this assertion, the London Piano Trio use touches of colour, not merely for representational purposes, but to imbue each harmony with innate sentiments. As Baudelaire notes: ‘The art of the colourist belongs in certain aspects both to mathematics and to music’. Sharing Baudelaire’s synesthetic perspective, the Trio transcends mere responsiveness to concrete objects and instils direct feeling in the listener. Conveying ideas or thoughts rather than representing something material, the masterly threesome brought to mind more words by Baudelaire: ‘La musique souvent me prend comme une mer!’

Lucy Jeffery

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