Piano Trio in G, Op.1/No.2 Bernard Stevens
Piano Trio, Op.3
Sans Souci Piano Trio
[Elizabeth Cooney, violin; Gabriella Swallow, cello; Cathal Breslin, piano]
Sans Souci Piano Trio - 5th October
Friday, October 05, 2001 St Jamess, Piccadilly, London
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
St Jamess Church, Piccadilly, has long been a favoured venue for chamber recitals; the immediacy of the acoustic outweighing the all-too-frequent reminders that this is a central London location.
Making its debut here was the Sans Souci Piano Trio, formed in 1999 by students at the Royal College of Music, and taking its distinctive name from the Belfast street in which the cellist was born.
Beethovens G major trio was a good choice, in that it is the least played of his Op.1 triptych. Less weighty and formal than the E flat trio, and less provocative than the stormy C minor, this is among the most relaxed of Beethovens early chamber works, the first movements Adagio folding into the Allegro vivace with an almost Mozartian fluency. The Sans Soucis could have characterised this movement more robustly, but it had the measure of the gentle pathos of the Largo, and despatched the scherzo and closing Presto with finely judged vigour. The spontaneous interplay of the ensemble was a constant source of pleasure.
So it was too in the Piano Trio, written in 1942, by Londoner Bernard Stevens (1916-83), a toughly-argued work, the three movements of which traverse a wide emotional range in their 16-minute course. The agitation of the opening Allegro deciso is barely relieved by the brooding intensity of the Adagio before the Allegro con brio works up to a conclusion of defiance, securely drawing together the works thematic threads in the process.
Recipients of the 2001 Bernard Stevens Prize, the Sans Souci has clearly taken the work to its collective heart, and delivered
a gripping performance which communicated to an attentive audience.
An absorbing and well-balanced recital from a group of keen
musicianship and evidently wide sympathies; well doubtless be hearing more of them.