Piano Trio in D, Op.70/1 (Ghost)
The Triology Dimension [World premiere]
Elegie, Op.23
Sextet in C, Op.37

[Richard Hyung-ki Joo (piano), Rafal Zambrzycki-Payne (violin) & Thomas Carroll (cello)]
with Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola), Michael Collins (clarinet) & Radovan Vlatkovič (horn)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 2 November, 2004
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

When is a piano trio not a piano trio? When it’s called Dimension, a threesome that doesn’t always play trios, and is purposely flexible in being one, two or three-plus. There was never less than three musicians in this recital, the first three works being for conventional ‘piano trio’ with Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ an ambitious start. It was a mixed performance. As an interpretation the first movement didn’t really gel until the development, and the slow movement, from which the work takes its name, could have been more broadly paced and more concerned for eerie atmosphere and a rapt, interior quality. The finale, however, was finely done, the tempo spot-on, the musicians alive to Beethoven’s purpose and deviations.

Of the musicians, Thomas Carroll sports an impressive warm tone, and consistently so across the range, with exact intonation, the latter not always a feature of Rafal Zambrzycki-Payne’s playing, and he also had the occasional technical awkwardness and not such a varied response. Richard Hyung-ki Joo is the perfect chamber-music pianist, one who is perfectly balanced with his colleagues and who has an imaginative response to the music he plays without drawing attention to himself. However, his own ‘cut and paste’ The Triology Dimension, while inventive, was too concerned with parody: polystylistic with some cabaret, and borrowings from other composers, but performed with terrific commitment and virtuosity. The violinist was called upon to rattle a bit of percussion and the composer himself played a drone on an unnamed instrument and cracked a joke too. Both string players utilised chopsticks as the piece of that name was aired on the piano.

Suk’s Elegie made a heartfelt prelude to Dohnányi’s Sextet from 1935, music still owing to Brahms but with more ‘harmonic decay’ (in the sense of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No.1). It made a big impression in this superb performance, one deserving of a better audience; a member of this one took a flash-photograph just as the performance begun and someone let their mobile ring through the slow movement’s final bars into the ensuing silence … etc.

But with a superb trio of friends – the violist from the Belcea Quartet, the rich-toned and acrobatic Vlatkovič, and the compelling Collins – Dimension presented Dohnányi’s work with conviction, sensitivity and dexterity; the restless first movement made a particular impression. The march-like, woodland-suggesting second movement had its Mahlerian overtones well-suggested; and the remaining pair, and linked, movements, were pure pleasure whether in Viennese waltzing or in the insouciant measures that fondly recall Saint-Saëns with a likeable tune that whirls round the mind for a couple of hours afterwards. Throughout, balance was exemplary, once again invaluably aided by Joo’s vibrant but never overwhelming pianism.

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