TrioVanBeethoven’s Refreshing Approach to Music-Making

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Beethoven, Fribbins, Brahms.  TrioVanBeethoven [Clemens Zellinger (piano), Verena Stourzh (violin), Franz Ortner (cello)] Hall One, Kings Place, London. 26.4.2015 (LB)

Beethoven – Piano Trio in G, Op.1 No.2
Peter Fribbins – Piano Trio (2004)
Brahms – Piano Trio No.1 in B, Op.8

The TrioVanBeethoven, formed in 2011 with a mission to implement a more imaginative vision of the piano trio, also expresses itself through a creative dress code; violinist Verena Stourzh wore a dazzling waistcoat and sparkling black beret, whilst cellist Franz Ortner sported blue suede shoes to match the vibrant blue shirt of pianist Clemens Zellinger.

Their programme of two first-rate standard repertoire pieces flanking the thought-provoking piano trio by Peter Fribbins was a promising one, and their performance raised many interesting questions, not least what it is about their performances that might fundamentally distinguish them from other piano trios.

The ensemble’s approach to Beethoven’s sparkling early trio was meticulous, but somehow musically reluctant.  This apparent musical hesitance led me to wonder what objective criteria would contribute to a truly idiomatic performance, and also whether the ensemble had succeeded in identifying and resolving these questions.

Carl Khym’s excellent transcription of Beethoven’s piano trio, Op.1 No.2, for string quintet reveals something of the essence of the music, now freed from the limitations of the medium for which it was originally composed, and such an objective perspective could inevitably provide the route to infinitely more creative musical solutions.

Composer Peter Fribbins (b. 1969) was present for the performance of his Piano tTrio, which he now thinks of as a youthful work, in light of his complex and fertile musical journey since then. Composed in 2004, it is a fundamentally melodic and dramatic work, in three movements, but with the organised and creative exploitation of mild dissonances.

TrioVanBeethoven’s passionate and sincere performance suited the music well and the juxtaposition of expressive instrumental cadenzas, melodic episodes, furious passagework, ghostly harmonics and cheeky pizzicatos and was deftly navigated.

Brahms’ B major Trio is one of the most sumptuous in the piano trio repertoire, and is especially loved by cellists for the prominent opportunity it affords their instrument, right at the outset, to define the emotional character of the entire performance.

Franz Ortner’s approach to the glorious opening cello solo was a refined one, which laid the foundation for what proved to be a more than credible performance of the trio Brahms spent the better part of three decades refining.

The ensemble performed with determination and vigour throughout, and such was Clemens Zellinger’s enthusiasm at the keyboard, that he was at times in danger of overwhelming the string players, their own muscular contribution notwithstanding.

Leon Bosch



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