The Minerva Piano Trio treated us to neglected works by Johannes Brahms – the first version of Opus 8 (1854) – and the G minor Trio (1846) by his close friend Clara Schumann.
As Brahms is my favourite composer it was an education in itself to discover how this supreme master was able to turn the inspired early work that we heard here into the masterpiece it later became, in 1889. Only the delightful Scherzo remained largely unchanged. Influences in the outer movements were simply discarded – the whole work magically improved to the one we normally hear performed and with one of the most sublime opening melodic ideas in all music. Clara Schumann’s work was also a pleasure, with only the finale lacking the maturity of the previous three movements.
The Minerva Piano Trio blended nicely throughout this lunchtime concert, each musician playing with high technical facility. The performances – especially of Brahms’s Scherzo – were impressive, the right-hand playing of Annie Yim very telling and suggesting hand-bells ringing (a sound on the piano I have never heard before). Michal Cwizewicz played with authority and much feeling, and Richard Birchall participated in a relaxed expressive way throughout. This rather neglected music and the splendid renditions were enjoyed by an attentive audience.