An enjoyable and challenging evening

Melnikov, Faust and Queyras, Snape Proms, Snape Maltings, August 25

The piano trio is a challenging combination that has inspired some fine music from many of the greatest composers; Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovitch spring to mind, not to mention the three giants whose works comprised this evening’s programme. The three performers, Isabelle Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexander Melnikov all have flourishing independent careers but chamber music is important to all of them.

Haydn’s E flat piano trio of 1797 is a mature, reflective work with a somewhat improvisatory opening allegretto followed by a reflective, occasionally tentative andantino and a final cheerful allegro, enlivened by some unexpected piano sforzandos. It was given a warm and sympathetic reading with a nice dose of brio in the finale.

The question ‘what is the greatest symphony/piano concerto etc’ generally produces much debate and little consensus but if the question were focused on piano trios alone I suspect the discussion would be shorter and agreement more widespread with Beethoven’s Archduke Trio a fairly clear winner. However, great music generates great expectations and the somewhat slow tempo for the opening allegro moderato did seem to diminish the work to a degree, although the striking development passage was superbly controlled. The scherzo was efficiently played but could have done with a bit more earthy vigour, particularly in the trio.

The magnificent slow movement was given a worthy performance, Melnikov drawing the most delicate sounds from the piano when required and Queyras providing a rich underlay from the cello. The variations flowed seamlessly and the modulations were breathtaking. The rugged, rustic finale had an energy and �lan that seemed to elude the earlier movements and the finale piu presto went with a real flourish.


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Dvorak’s Dumky Trio is, on the face of it, a difficult trick to bring off. Six similar movements, all of the same alternating slow-fast structures, can all too easily sound fragmented. Yet this was as gripping and satisfying a performance as one could wish to have. The lively Czech rhythms were perfectly captured but so were the moments of melancholy and introspection and there were beautiful solos from all performers, particularly Isobelle Faust.

Gareth Jones

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