The Vienna Piano Trio Surmount Distractions in Turina’s Piano Trio

 Mozart, Turina and Schumann: Vienna Piano Trio, Wigmore Hall, London, 28.4.2015 (AS)

Mozart: Piano Trio in C, K548
Turina: Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 35
Schumann: Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 63 

Given that the Vienna Piano Trio has been a well-established group for many years and enjoys a high reputation, it was surprising that this concert was so poorly attended. If this must have been a disappointment for the players, they showed no sign of such a thing in their highly committed and strongly projected account of Mozart’s fifth trio for keyboard, violin and cello. Whether the pianist Stefan Mendl would have so dominated the sound picture if he had used an instrument of Mozart’s day is perhaps open to question, but for much of the work the cello takes a back seat anyway. Bogdan Božoviċ’s violin tone, here and throughout the concert, was a little on the sharp side. But the opening Allegro movement was engagingly alert rhythmically and there was total conviction, confidence and high expertise in the playing. The second, slow movement was shaped in a touchingly tender fashion and the final Allegro was cheerfully jaunty and outgoing in nature.

Turina’s First Piano Trio of 1926 is by no means a great work, but it is well crafted and provides an undemanding and pleasant listening experience. The composer’s native Spanish temperament is well in evidence, but tempered perhaps by a French influence brought about through Turina’s stay of ten years in Paris. The players entered into the spirit of the work in a lively, sympathetic performance that was however characterised by extraordinary happenings. Some way into the sonata-form finale, the violinist broke a string, and there was a fairly lengthy interlude before he came back with his instrument now intact. And so the finale began again, but after a couple of minutes another tell-tale snapping sound announced the end of a cello string. Amidst much laughter on stage and in the audience Matthias Gredler retreated to re-string his instrument. At the third attempt the trio managed to play the whole movement through, a feat that was greeted with good-natured cheers.

After the interval we heard a highly characterful and concentrated performance of Schumann’s very fine first piano trio. The scurrying scherzo with its lovely trio section was beautifully brought off, and the players responded delicately and with tender solicitude to Schumann’s gloomy introversion in the slow movement. They invested plenty of energy and vigour in the more extrovert finale, where the composer seems, for a while at least, to have conquered his inner demons. The positive element here was enhanced by an exciting, virtuoso accelerando at the end of the work.

As a calming encore the trio played one of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 88.


Alan Sanders




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