Nicholas Yonge Society

Chamber Music in Lewes

28th March 2014

Beethoven Piano Trio in B flat Opus 97 (‘Archduke’)
Peter Fribbins ‘Softly, in the dusk...’ (2007)
Shostakovich Piano Trio in E minor Op.67

Rosamunde Trio in performance 

In a change to their advertised programme, the Rosamunde Trio began their recital with Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, plunging their audience into one of the grandest, most expansive openings in the entire chamber repertoire. Yet despite the almost symphonic sweep of the arpeggio theme, floating serenely over pulsating quavers, it immediately became apparent that this performance would not focus on the power and authority conjured up by the nickname of ‘the Archduke’; instead, its heart would be found in an intimate dialogue between three souls journeying together, but somehow each retaining a personal experience of the proceedings as they unfolded before us. The platform manner of the players contributed to this impression. There was little overt visual or physical communication – indeed pianist Martino Tirimo’s features remained completely impassive throughout the duration of the work – and yet they exuded a complete unity of spirit, as if communicating to each other, and to us, in and through the sound of the music alone. In the slow movement the long cantabile lines of the string players, American violinist  Ben Sayevich and Czech cellist Daniel Veis, achieved a wonderful expressivity, the unruffled surface mysteriously reflecting the hidden depths from which the emotion sprung.

After the interval the trio played the one-movement composition written for them by Peter Fribbins and premiered in 2007, ‘Softly, in the dusk..’. Inspired by a poem by D.H. Lawrence, in which the poet remembers his mother singing in the parlour at home, the piece captured not only the quiet spirit of the verses, but also the character of the performers, their tenderness and undemonstrative intimacy. The strings were in dialogue with the piano throughout, never sharing the same music, and yet contributing to a unanimity of mood that was highly effecting.

If the playing up to this point in the evening had been appropriately restrained, that was all about to change with the final offering, the second Piano Trio by Shostakovich. Written towards the end of the Second World War and prompted in part by the death of one of his closest friends, the emotions are raw and the nerve endings helplessly exposed. The quiet opening, in which the muted cello plays a long melody entirely in harmonics, initiated the atmosphere of foreboding that was sustained throughout. When in the finale the tension seems to snap, with snatches of Hebrew melodies heard among other episodes that somehow fail to gain any real momentum, the trio held on to the sense of a tragedy that was both exhilarating and profoundly sad. The players met every technical and expressive challenge with new feats of virtuosity, which made this performance a true climax not only to the evening, but to the entire season.

Reviewer: Timothy Wilcox
Photographer: David James