ATOS Trio at Wigmore Hall

Trio Élégiaque No.1 in G minor, Op.Posth
Piano Trio in B flat, Op.97 (Archduke)

ATOS Trio [Annette von Hehn (violin), Stefan Heinemeyer (cello) & Thomas Hoppe (piano)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 27 September, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The ATOS trio, members of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme, gave a powerful performance of Rachmaninov’s posthumously published first work for piano trio as the opening piece of this Lunchtime Concert.

ATOS Trio. Photograph: www.atos-trio.deSpread over the course of just under fifteen minutes, the work is emotionally concentrated, perhaps surprisingly so for a composer still in his late teens, and is notable for its thematic unity. The tremolos from violin and cello were barely perceptible, Annette von Hehn and Stefan Heinemeyer creating a tense atmosphere. This was maintained largely throughout, with the unison passages at the climactic points precise and emphatic, the balance between virtuosic piano and its two string counterparts nicely secured. The softer music was keenly felt, too, in particular a slowly moving canon between the string parts.

Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’ is one of the glories of the piano trio repertoire, and the ATOS Trio succeeded in capturing its humourous sleights of hand. In the first movement Thomas Hoppe demonstrated a very carefully planned interpretation of the score, capturing the suddenly-loud chord in the middle of the main theme, which was a sign of the attention to detail the players secured throughout. Witty asides could be glimpsed, especially in the scherzo and finale, a twinkle in the eye of the former’s main theme contrasted by the nervousness of the chromaticism in the trio. There was also some humour in the more light-hearted variations of the Andante, though the performance lost its way a little early on in this movement. Though Beethoven’s markings were scrupulously observed, the differences of dynamics between the instruments could at times lead to an unbalanced rendition. This was gradually ironed out as the music progressed, helped by the close-seated arrangement on the platform. By the end there was a much greater sense of unity, the musicians enjoying the magic of Beethoven’s modulation to the seemingly remote key of D major, made in ghostly held notes, and the sudden conversion back to the ‘home’ key of B flat for an exuberant and playful finale.

As an imaginative encore the trio gave an affectionate reading of Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement of the Londonderry Air, a most enjoyable miniature.

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