Schubert Piano Trio No 2 in E flat major D.929
Having heard a performance two days previously of Schubert’s Piano Trio No 1 in B flat in Lewes, it was fascinating to her this, his second piano trio, a work I wasn’t familiar with. A lot of commentaries sing the praises of the B flat trio and are a little patronising about the E flat, even though it was Schubert’s favourite, was very successful at its first performance and received glowing praise from Schumann. They complain of its length and not having the sustained melodic invention and beauty of the first trio.
Personally I found it a much more gripping, dramatic and original work, and although I do feel Schubert can be sometimes over-repetitive, I didn’t feel the piece was overlong, and in particular the finale, though this was, as stated in Chris Darwin’s excellent programme note, in the revised shorter version.
The Trio Wanderer gave an absolutely wonderful, committed performance. From the strong, unified opening statement we knew we were in for a treat. All three players mastered the contrasts between the more bold statements and the lighter and more gentle passages. There were some exquisite runs of triplets on the piano which reminded me of some of Schubert’s Impromptus ( An audience member I spoke to said she had never heard the piano in that hall sound so good ; under other players she thought it could sound quite clunky!)
It was delightful also to watch how attentive the pianist was to the other players, continually looking round, checking for coordination of entries, tempi etc.
The Andante featured some eloquent cello playing and dialogue with the violin. The two great climaxes were immensely powerful, and the closing bars gentle and very touching.
The scherzo had a delightful lilt and lightness, and the various pizzicato passages played with admirable clarity.
The trio’s strong almost martial rhythms were beautifully caught. ( I was struck particularly during the scherzo how the pianist seemed to be mouthing the themes while playing, showing a wonderful involvement in the music; fortunately emitting no sound, unlike Glen Gould who notoriously sometimes hummed or sang along while playing, a nightmare for the recording engineers!)
The playful opening of the Finale on the piano led into a thrilling first climax, with strong offbeat rhythms. There were some beautiful clear, bright sparkling quavers in the piano playing, and the changes between the 6/8 and 2/2 rhythms seemed completely natural and provided I felt enough rhythmic interest to sustain the movement (Schubert can sometimes I feel flog certain rhythmic patterns, but not here).
All three players brought the movement to a rousing finish.
The enthusiastic audience reception was rewarded with a lively Haydn encore.
I felt this was some of the best playing we’ve heard in the whole of this series, three superbly professional and experienced musicians playing with total commitment. What a joy!