This was a recital more about the performers than the music they played. Each of the ASCH Trio is a first-class musician with a soloists confidence. They form an integrated, sharing threesome, the centrally-placed cellist the lynchpin and the most generous with eye-contact, although she can be a tad reticent in three-way dialogue. Their beautiful-sounding playing gave pleasure, not for the sake of it, but as a consequence of natural talent and listening to each other.
Focussed and inimitable as the ASCHs musicianship was, perhaps the Bach/Mozart could have been less severe and the (not vintage) Schubert (presumably the only existing movement) more winsome.
The Schnittke performance was extraordinarily committed and potentially overwhelming. Even so the late composers predictable mix of the simple and distorted, the refrain and note-cluster, and detracting polystylism, palled before the first movement ended. Unfortunately theres a second! However sympathetic one can be to Schnittkes soul-baring and life-commentary, there is a thin dividing line between a chronicle and an artistic statement, which Schnittke crossed all-too-easily and too many times. As an encore, his doleful Minuet, expression fragmented, has more to say in a tenth of the time as he deconstructs the old dance.
Having had a Prom evening of South Americana forty-eight hours earlier, another visit to tango-land wasnt craved. Despite the violists skilful arrangement, this example of Piazzollas craft inevitably lacked local colour, even allowing for the performers fondness.
Dobrinka Tabakova (born 1980) provided the new music London premiere? decidedly accessible with poignant streams of glissandos enclosing an anonymously rhythmic middle section. The full-circle close returned the best music, French-sounding in its lucidity, and perhaps signalling a composer both eager and fresh-thinking.
In five economical movements, at once derivative and imaginative, from Brahms, nearer to Dvoøák, with a Hungarian tang, Ernö Dohnányis Serenade ingratiated the most. Grandfather of conductor Christoph, Ernst von (to give the alternative) brings variety to his writing in this urbane, rural music that found its counterpart in the ASCHs sensitive, outgoing if somewhat slick rendition.
Impressive in sound, technique and teamwork, it would be good now to hear the ASCH Trio search the summits of their repertoire, that is the Divertimento of Mozart and Trio of Schoenberg (ASCH is named after Schoenberg and Schnittke), and I look forward to doing so.