Coffee Concert 25 March 2018 Trio Isimsiz
What an interesting programme! They have taken two of the great Romantic composers, most of whose works penetrate to the heart of what it means to be human, and played some of their lightest, most joyful work. From these pieces you wouldn’t know that Schubert and Beethoven had a care in the world.
Schubert’s Sonatensatz D 28 is a light-hearted and, frankly, lightweight piece, most interesting to us because of what the 15 year old Schubert was to do later. What was special was the way Trio Isimsiz played it: such delicacy, such tenderness. They resisted all temptation to put more expression into the playing than the work could stand. It was a lovely start to the concert.
Beethoven’s E flat trio is also light-hearted but it’s anything but lightweight. It’s packed with thoughtful, tender and sometimes joyful music, much of it giving the feeling of a composer writing for himself and his players rather than for performance. Trio Isimsiz played it in the same understated way as they had the early Schubert. Take the start of the first movement: the cello opened proceedings in the most undramatic, tentative way possible followed by the violin in the same mood. They used almost no vibrato, playing with a stillness that made it seem as though they had all the time in the world. All the more rousing, then, was the joyous moment when they at last play out in Eb, the home key of the trio. And this alternating of stillness with joy continues throughout the movement, indeed throughout the work. There’s more humour in the second movement, more liveliness in the fourth, but the mood is extraordinarily consistent.
I found myself thinking that I had never heard this trio played quite like this. At home I listened to the recording of Stern, Rose and Istomin playing it and, yes, theirs is a wonderful performance but it has less of this thoughtfulness, less delicacy, less tenderness.
Schubert’s “Trout” quintet is so well known one doesn’t expect a new interpretation, and this wasn’t. It was, however, about the most joyous performance you could wish for. After the introspection of the Beethoven the first movement of the Trout was pure joy, the second gorgeously lush, the third lively again. The fourth movement brought some serenity to the proceedings but the fifth ended in an orgy of exuberance.
Trio Isimsiz don’t move about much when they play but that was not true in “The Trout”. Pablo Hernán Benedi normally tosses off the most exquisite violin playing without moving anything but his arms and fingers. Here he seemed to be rocking in his chair with joy. And what a delight to see local boy Tim Ridout on viola blending in with the other players so well and handling his solos so beautifully. I’ve seen Tim play a lot in Brighton and in Lewes but I’ve never seen him smile like this before.
It can be dangerous for players to have too much fun: the performance can suffer. There never seemed any danger of that here: ensemble was impeccable, phrasing perfectly judged, the whole thing bubbling with exuberance. What a treat!