Wednesday 9th January 2013

 – Piano Trio in F op. 22

Fauré – Piano Trio in D Minor op. 120

Tchaikovsky – Piano Trio in A Minor op. 50

The Gould Piano Trio make a welcome return to Ilkley. An ensemble with an enviable reputation for musical integrity and imagination, they celebrate their 20th Anniversary in 2012. Hummel was a piano virtuoso and a contemporary of Beethoven. His piano trio is a particularly charming piece. Fauré's piano trio is a late work with exquisite melodies and characteristically delicate piano writing. Conceived on a large scale in memory of his mentor and friend Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky's trio has a serious elegiac first movement with a large second movement – a set of 11 variations. This is music with an epic sweep and intoxicating virtuosity.


Virtuosic Chamber Music at the King’s Hall Ilkley

This well balanced programme began lightly with Hummel’s op.22 Trio, the first movement performed with grace and elegance, and in the ensuing variations which give each player a chance to shine, they made the most of the opportunity and were then in a more suitably unbuttoned mood for the boisterous finale.
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The restrained emotionalism of the Fauré D minor Piano Trio was well caught. This is music of considerable hidden depths and the players explored its secrets well, cellist Alice Neary ‘s rich-toned opening solo taking us beguilingly into the composer’s unique sound-world. The slow movement’s singing lines were expressively projected and there was a real sense of release in the far more extrovert finale, played with tremendous attack.

After the interval a real contrast, music of unrestrained feeling, Tchaikowsky’s two –movement Trio in A minor. This is a real marathon for the players and can be for the audience, but not on this occasion. The Goulds effectively communicated all the strengths of this unwieldy (and some would argue uneven) work and constantly held our attention throughout its fifty minute discourse.

The hero of the performance was pianist Benjamin Frith. With the piano lid fully open he negotiated his concerto-like part with total assurance, without ever threatening to drown his partners yet never seeming to underplay his contribution; a remarkable achievement. The string players entered fully into the dramatic spirit of the music, whether it was languorous, turbulent or folk-like in that uniquely Russian manner; the long sad coda to the first movement affectively done.

The extended second movement’s variations were superbly characterized and throughout, Lucy Gould’s violin-playing was a joy, especially in the more reflective moments such as her muted solo in the ninth variation. Cellist and violinist showed powerful unanimity in the many octave and unison passages, never more so than at the end when the work’s opening theme returns in grandiose triple forte. The final bars are sombre but the audience response was deservedly noisy and enthusiastic.

Geoffrey Kinder

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Recommended Recordings


An outstanding disc from Naxos on “authentic instruments” couples the F major Trio with two others and a Cello Sonata (8.557694). In the F major trio the artists are Susan Alexander-Max (fortepiano), Simon Standage (violin) and Pal Banda (cello). The recording quality is excellent and the disc comes at upper-budget price.

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Hyperion have placed their superb recording with the Florestan Trio in their 30th. Anniversary Series (CDA30029), placing it in the budget category. The outstanding couplings are the Debussy and Ravel Piano Trios, and the recording quality, as usual from this source, is very good indeed.


In the last few years there have been a number of successful recordings of this lovely work. The Vienna Piano Trio on MDG 942 1512-2 (full price and SACD playable on all CD players) gives a very fine performance and, as usual with this label, is very well recorded. The coupling is the wonderful Smetana Piano Trio. A good, well recorded, budget alternative, but without a coupling, is on Apex 0927-48728-2. The artists are Pascal Rogé (piano), Pierre Amoyal (violin) and Frédéric Lodeon (cello). Tonight’s Trio have a very fine recording of this work on Champs Hill Records CHRCD 012 (full price). The coupling is Rachmaninov’s Trio Élégiaque No.1.

Raymond Waud.

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