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Vienna Piano Trio

Beethoven: Piano Trio in D-Major, op.70/1 "Ghost"
Hummel: Piano Trio E-flat Major op.93
Kurtág: Varga Balint Ligaturája (2007)
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in c-minor op.66

Matthias Gredler violoncello Stefan Mendl piano Wolfgang Redik violin

Wigmore Hall 14. April 2009

This highly accomplished trio was enjoyed at Wigmore Hall in 2000 and also on CD. This programme left us with mixed feelings. The Beethoven was fast and forceful in the outer movements, convincingly so, and not at all "ghostly" in the central one - Czerny was responsible for its popular name, I learn...

The pianist is the lynchpin, his technique is masterful and he pedals sparingly so that his string colleagues are usually not overwhelmed (except this evening in the Mendelssohn, an unfavourite of mine which simply has too many notes which pour out relentlessly).

Hummel's had been lighter and well worth an airing when so many chamber concerts are devoted to standard canonical works. It was surprisingly effective after such a major work as the Beethoven 70/1. More comfortable, domesticated music, it would have been fine to lead us to our interval drinks, but a change of plan had us asked to remain for the Kurtág miniature after lengthy platform rearrangements to accommodate an upright piano with a special mute that was left on all the time... To accommodate it, the strings players fitted practice mutes and, apart from a little swirl of less quiet tone in the middle of its four minutes - you couldn't call it loud - the whole thing, a tribute to his publisher Bálint András Varga, was not that far from inaudible; it gave us however an opportunity to appreciate the gentle whooshing of the gas-mantle lights that shine in the four corners of the venerable 1901 hall, originally Bechstein Hall. (For the Hall's history, access their podcast.)

This was a strange little piece, inappropriately placed and giving rise to unanswerable questions in the interval. To put it in context, see our review of Marino Formenti's CD Kurtág's Ghosts. There is something of a cult these days for very quiet, often brief pieces of music, q.v. also Abrahamsen and Pintscher.

A worth-while concert, especially for the majority there who seemed happy enough with that Mendelssohn trio. Mendelssohn himself confessed to his sister Fanny that the second trio was “a bit beastly to play”; perhaps I might come to terms with it if heard on period instruments, a lighter piano and gut strings?

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also: http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/liveevents/AustrianCulturalForum50.htm