United Kingdom Proms Chamber Music 8 – Brahms, Arlene Sierra: Benedetti Elschenbroich Grynyuk Trio [Nicola Benedetti (violin), Leonard Elschenbroich (cello), Alexei Grynyuk (piano)], Cadogan Hall, London, 7.9.2015. (JPr)
Brahms, Piano Trio No.1 in B major, Op.8
Arlene Sierra, Butterflies Remember a Mountain
A very pleasant chamber music Prom (the last of eight) brought the 2015 season to an end. It featured the Benedetti Elschenbroich Grynyuk Trio who really should try for a less tongue-twisting name – at least for those without the practiced skills of Petroc Trelawny who introduced the concert for those in the Cadogan Hall or listening on radio. There was nothing showy or limelight-seeking from star violinist Nicola Benedetti who seemed content as one of an accomplished trio and indeed her playing was somewhat overshadowed by Leonard Elschenbroich’s eloquent cello which, when it ‘spoke’, demanded attention.
Petroc Trelawny reminded us how Brahms had first written his Piano Trio No.1 as a 20-year-old and revised it 35 years later telling friends ‘I had already sent the piece to the grave and had no intention to play it any more’ and ‘Do you still remember the B major Trio from our early days? Wouldn’t it be curious to hear it now as I have – instead of placing a wig on it – taken the hair and combed and ordered it a bit.’ In fact the revisions were quite extensive and it seems to have gained a stately, contemplative air. Elschenbroich’s cello shone in the opening Allegro leading to a more playful and jollier Scherzo when all three musicians get a chance to shine, but Benedetti’s virtuosity came to the fore especially. The Adagio is melancholic and introspective and the trio ratcheted up the intensity so that everything could be wrapped up by the Finale, the climax of which was evidence – if evidence was needed – of the brilliant musicianship of Benedetti, Elschenbroich, not forgetting Alexei Grynyuk’s plangent piano.
The second work on the programme was an interesting – if minor – new work (2013) by Arlene Sierra who confessed to be interested in ‘natural themes … scientific processes … and how they can be part of the structure of the piece.’ Her insights into the compositional process was interesting and I suspect like many others she uses ‘very small building blocks of original material and sometimes a couple of found objects from others.’ In her case she included allusions to Ravel in her ‘found objects’. The short work is based on the annual migration of the Monarch butterflies across North America and how they apparently circumvent a mountain that was there in the dawn of history but is actually no longer in their way. The three movements reflect this; the skittering Butterflies brings images of the insects themselves, Remember ‘does what is says on the tin’ and is elegiac and clearly redolent of remembrance and A Mountain has all the majesty of an imposing vista. Here the Benedetti Elschenbroich Grynyuk Trio were not in the more abstract, romantic, soundworld of Brahms but they told a story that was ephemeral, wistful and emotional by turns. They did this so well that they gave Butterflies Remember a Mountain a profundity that belied its 11 minute length.
The Trio returned to Brahms for their encore – announced, I believe, as the Andante from Brahms’s ‘Third Suite’ when I suspect Benedetti meant Third Piano Trio – and this was given a suitably plaintive reading by these excellently integrated trio of musicians.
BBC Radio 3 will repeat this concert on 13 September and it is well worth hearing. It is available for 30 days after broadcast via the BBC Proms website www.bbc.co.uk/proms.
Margarida Mota-Bull interviewed Leonard Elschenbroich for Seen and Heard in March 2015.