I love piano trios. For me, piano, cello and violin is a holy trinity of instruments which magically creates that big sound I seek.
I was therefore delighted to listen to the CD of The Leipzig Circle Vol 11, recorded by the London Bridge Trio on Somm Recordings. Formed in 2002, the London Bridge Trio is a firmly established chamber ensemble with many successful recordings under its belt.
First on the album is Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1. The first movement augured well with Kate Gould’s soulful, restless cello ( A magnificent Carlo-Guiseppe Testore of 1711) easing us into the piece. Daniel Tong’s faultless technique on piano and David Adams singing violin makes this a very successful musical ménage. Mendelssohn’s warm melodies come through clearly but with all the necessary nuances. This is a skilled, textured composition by Mendelssohn, musically evoking corresponding moods of restlessness and serenity, and playfulness in the third movement where Tong really lets his fingers fly in the scherzo.
Clara Schumann piano trio follows. Between touring, caring for her eight children and working to support her husband Robert Schumann mentally and musically, it is a wonder that she found time to compose at all, but she did, especially in the earlier years. Piano compositions abound but little ensemble music. She wrote the unashamedly romantic Piano Trio in G minor in 1846, when she was bedridden, expecting her fourth child. She is quoted as saying: ‘A woman must not desire to compose’.
Despite all the obstacles she faced composing, her Piano Trio in G minor trio is now considered to be a masterpiece. It is a masterpiece which grows on you and warrants careful attention if you haven’t heard it before. It is a finely spun, glistening web of ideas. Particularly arresting is the Allegro moderato, the opening movement, where the two subjects in the exposition develop in such interesting and sometimes unexpected ways. The dialogue between the instruments is just so beautiful and my heart quickens in the rousing ‘daa da da da da-tah’ transitional moments where piano, violin and cello play in unison.
And so finally to Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No.2 in F major. The composer wrote of it as a “friendlier” work, in comparison to his other darker trios. The opening is certainly very Sehr lebhaft ‘lively’, vigorous and extrovert. This brightness is however questioned in the Mit innigen Ausdruck- Lebhaft (heartfelt) second movement in a mesmeric, waltz like dance, part nostalgic, part poignant reflection on life in the descending passages. This is a gorgeous movement from start to finish as is the In mässiger Bewengung which follows. In the final movement we are finally jolted and pulled back into the present again, perhaps reluctantly.
All three trios were recorded live at the Birmingham Conservatoire September 2018 and what a treat the audience must have had. I wasn’t aware of the live recording until I heard the applause. My ignorance shows not only my failure to read the small print on the CD cover but the quality of the playing and Recording Producer, Siva Oke.
A wonderful romantic programme, a real balm to the soul.
The Leipzig Circle Vol 2 is released by Somm Recordings on 17th July 2020. https://somm-recordings.com/recording/leipzig-circle-vol-two/