Wednesday 11th March 2015


Debussy arr. Beamish – La Mer

La MerFrank Bridge – Piano Trio No.2, H.178

Shostakovich – Piano Trio No.2, Op.67


A Brave programme of Two Halves

The group’s mission is to explore music outside the standard piano trio repertoire and so expand it with unknown or rarely played pieces. They also commission new works and arrangements. The first half of their Ilkley concert was made up of two such items. This was brave programming and their exploration of unfamiliar territory is to be applauded; how much easier to go on tour just with favourites by Beethoven, Schubert etc. Good also that concert promoters with their necessary concern for ‘bums on seats’ support such adventures.

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They began with an arrangement of Debussy’s La Mer which they’d commissioned from their composer friend Sally Beamish. Reducing a work for over a hundred players down to just three must have been a daunting task, but despite the loss of a lot of orchestral colour the result is a success. The Second Piano Trio by Frank Bridge is a harder nut for audiences to crack; its ideas, especially in the long first movement not easy to grasp despite the committed playing of the Apaches. The two central movements are more immediately rewarding and went well. However in both these works there was some lack of balance; the cellist Thomas Carroll and violinist Matthew Trusler have very contrasted approaches to performing, the one very extrovert, the other more inward, and Ashley Wass is a very assertive pianist.

After the interval these balance problems seemed to be resolved, and Shostakovich’s Second Trio, surely a masterpiece, received a superb performance,. The way the first movement emerges from the shadows into full daylight was imaginatively done. The sardonic humour of the scherzo was conveyed at dazzling speed and the overwhelming sadness of the slow movement was expressively caught. The playing of the extraordinary finale, which moves from apparent triteness through searing tragedy and then to peaceful resolution was such that the end was greeted with profound silence before the applause could begin. Quite rightly after such an emotional experience no encore was offered or required.


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Recommended Recordings


Debussy, arr. Beamish

There is only one recording of this arrangement, and that is by tonight’s artists which, fortunately, is an extremely good one on Orchid ORC 100043 (full price). Recording quality is excellent, and the coupling is “The Seafarer” for piano trio and narrator by Sally beamish.

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Frank Bridge

A very good disc from Helios/Hyperion includes the Phantasie Trio, Fantasy Quartet and Piano Trio No.2, and has Hyperion’s usual high standard of recording quality. The artists are The Dartington Trio on Helios CDH55063 (upper budget price). At around the same price, Jack Liebeck (violin), Alexander Chaushian (cello), and Ashley Wass (piano) perform Piano Trio No.2, Phantasie Trio and Miniatures, on Naxos 8.570792. The recording quality is very satisfactory.


This much recorded piece has recently appeared on the Supraphon label,

SU 4145-2, at full price. The young Smetana Trio give magnificent performances of the two Shostakovich Piano Trios and the Ravel Piano Trio, with very natural sounding recordings. A cheapish Naxos CD, 8.553297, has good performances by the Stockholm Arts Trio of the two Shostakovich Trios plus 7 Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok , with very satisfactory sound quality.

Raymond Waud.

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