Piano Trio in E-flat, D929
Piano Trio No.1 in C-minor, Op.8
Piano Trio No.2 in E-minor, Op.67
Amatis Piano Trio [Mengjie Han (piano), Lea Hausmann (violin) & Samuel Shepherd (cello)]
Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran
Reviewed: 27 September, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
For the Parkhouse Award Winner’s Concert, the fiery Amatis Piano Trio performed an intense and demanding programme, and has just been admitted to BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artist scheme.
Musical intelligence and virtuosity were established with the Schubert. The formality of the opening Allegro then gave way to reflective lyricism, beautifully balanced between the instruments. Mengjie Han’s piano was prominent with clean, almost glassy attack, very effective in the dramatic passages whereas Lea Hausmann’s violin was a little thin in tone for the Schubert, but she came into her own with the angular accuracy so essential for Shostakovich.
The musicians relished the emotional contrasts found in the Schubert, constantly communicating with each other by look and gesture. The melancholic cello theme of the beautiful second-movement Andante was given its full value by Samuel Shepherd, a melody that makes a surprising return in the Finale, and after the Scherzo had provided a little light relief, the complexity of the lengthy last movement was pulled off with fantastic energy and attack.
Of Shostakovich’s two Piano Trios, the First is a one-movement experimental piece, written when the composer was sixteen. It is typically ironic in tone with romantic passages colliding with spiky phrases and chromatic leaps. The Amatis members’ youthful exuberance married well with this charged, unpredictable narrative.
Their performance of the Second Trio (1944) was even more breathtaking, opening like a muted cry of pain, the agony then intensified. Grotesque and spectral versions of dances and folksongs interweave with dark discords, leading to a savage climax in the Scherzo, a Klezmer theme obsessively reiterated. Like the Schubert, Shostakovich’s Second Trio is cyclical and we have a reminder of the bleak opening in the last movement. There is no hope. The Amatis Trio expressed this extraordinary vision. The encore, Josef Suk’s Elegie (Opus 23), provided a response to this anguish, conveying the repose to be found in death.