ASCH Trio – Wigmore Hall (21 March)

String Trio, Op.45
Epitaph, Op.105
String Trio
Divertimento in E flat, K563

[Roman Mints, violin; Maxim Rysanov, viola; Kristine Blaumane, cello]

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 21 March, 2003
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Last September ASCH Trio made a big impression in a QEH recital. I have looked forward to hearing the musicians in the trios of Mozart and Schoenberg, both masterpieces; on this occasion, however, neither work quite justified this pre-designated status.

The ASCH is a genuine chamber group in terms of interaction and teamwork, albeit tonight there was a deficit of characterisation and variety, Schoenberg’s Trio lacking knife-edge intensity – the music of a seriously ill composer that flickers into life as a fully formed twelve-note creation. Its emotional charge comes from the composer’s circumstances – surge and decline, remembrance and fear, a question mark to close. Although ASCH brought vividness to the music, the last degree of identification and final-lap intensification wasn’t quite there; a tauter approach would have paid dividends.

Similarly over the six-movement span of the Mozart in which more variegation and dynamic change was needed – the work seemed longer than it should. The caprice of the first movement was well done, as was the operatic recitations of the succeeding ’Adagio’; yet, for example, darker clouds need to loom a little more in the first movement development. Greater concentration was evident later – you could hear a pin drop – the eloquence unforced, the Austrian dances lilted and the Finale’s trite tune proved insouciant.

One slight doubt about this ensemble is the occasional lack of poise and some timbral vagary – more usually from the violinist – although there’s no doubt of the care, preparation and concord that goes into ASCH’s interpretations.

Good too that they play a wide repertoire. Elena Firsova’s piece, inspired by tragedy, proved disappointing in its lack of substance and amorphous sectioning. (It would have been better placed as a prelude to the Mozart rather than immediately after Schoenberg.) Gideon Klein’s Trio – his last work, completed in his mid-twenties, just days before being sent to Auschwitz in 1944 – was a real discovery, played with sensitivity and panache. Reminding of Janácek in earthiness and Britten in precociousness, the three compact movements are rich in invention and, given Klein’s surroundings, no lack of optimistic vigour. The work’s heart is a consistently Slavic-sounding set of variations on a Moravian folksong and, therein, the feeling that all possible is being squeezed from it – a last fling with life. The Finale might have benefited a lighter gait than ASCH brought to it, which would allowed the flowering chorale a greater sense of stoicism.

If not its finest hour this time, music played by the ASCH Trio certainly lives and communicates.

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