Piano Trio in C, HXV:27
Piano Trio No.1 in B flat, Op.21
ATOS Trio [Thomas Hoppe (piano), Annette von Hehn (violin) & Stefan Heinemeyer (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 19 November, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The members of the ATOS Trio have a very persuasive way with Haydn, beginning this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall with a late Haydn work in this genre. Written for Theresa Jansen, a piano-teacher based in London, it makes some deceptively difficult technical demands on the pianist, which Thomas Hoppe was equal to. Hoppe’s style is attractive, very aware of the balance between him and the two string-players, whose roles are often secondary in this piece. They did however carry harmonic importance; Annette von Hehn had some probing lines in the first movement. The Adagio was relatively swift but captured the abrupt changes of mood, while the finale sparkled, a further example of Haydn’s ability to write witty, syncopated tunes.
It is gratifying that performances of piano trios by Dvořák, so often restricted to the F minor (the magnificent Opus 65, and the ‘Dumky’), now embrace the earlier examples with greater frequency. The B flat work, published in 1880 after five years of wrangling by the composer, takes its lead from Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’, with which it shares the key of B flat major, and Schubert’s same-key example.
It is not derivative, though, for there are some memorable Slavonic themes. In the third movement ‘Polka’ the ATOS musicians were fully responsive to the give and take of the rhythms, though there were a few tuning issues with von Hehn’s melody in the trio. This was however a small blot on an extremely fine performance. Stefan Heinemeyer probed the emotional depths of the Adagio while using commendable restraint, the movement evoking considerable sadness, though the music’s background is unfortunately elusive. Once again Hoppe was careful to align the balance, so that even in the loudest passages there was no forced emotion. Thus the lengthy first movement emerged as a cogent musical argument and the finale was a victory well won, though the players were at pains to bring out the music’s darker side when the Adagio theme returned.