Piano Trio in B flat, D898
Piano Trio in E flat, D929
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Steven Osborne (piano)
Reviewed by: Malcolm Miller
Reviewed: 31 January, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
There was much to admire in precision, lucidity, and attention to fine dynamic gradations. At times a slight dryness through under-pedalling and sparing use of vibrato seemed to evoke ‘authentic’ performance, and one missed an element of romantic mystery, of caressing rubato or gutsy articulation; yet the musicians were alert to the most subtle nuances, and projected with virtuosity Schubert’s most characteristic effects, such as the cello’s yearning second subject in the first movement of the B flat work, which Gerhardt shaped expressively, or the dramatic pauses at the end of the exposition. Osborne’s dazzling dexterity drew glistening sounds in the many octave patterns, while the strings drew beguiling colours in the glorious themes of the slow movement, and much drama was invested into the contrasts within the scherzo movements, and the more extended rhetoric of the rondo finales.
In the bristling first movement of D929 the clarity of inner voices of Schubert’s counterpoint was compelling, and the delicate repeated-note ideas of the second subject were playfully pointed and shared between the players. Here the development radiated drama, the piano arpeggios rippling like sugar-coating on the finely traced string lines, veering round unexpected turnings. The musicians’ gripping playing, always responsive to the architecture of the piece, underscored effects like the return to the major/minor second subject. I would take issue with their rather fast tempo in the Andante con moto: ‘con moto’, yes, but also Andante; this tripping momentum detracted from the music’s poignant pathos, yet on the plus side it afforded Gerhardt broad phrasing which was eloquently developed in duet and dialogue. Further limpid canons flowed in the scherzo and more forthright trio, while the finale was a zestful tour de force, the cyclic reminiscences and modulatory twists and turns adroitly handled to the very last.
The encore, Schubert’s Notturno (D897), was in many ways the highpoint as by now the artists relaxed into the luxuriant richness and compassion of Schubert’s melody in thirds, so reminiscent of the String Quintet, three artists singing as one. It formed an exhilarating bonus and whetted one’s appetite for their forthcoming Hyperion recording of these ever-inspiring masterworks.