Dumas Trio

Les Bergerettes
Piano Trio No.1 (Written in memory of Clarence Myerscough)
Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67

Dumas Trio [Viv McLean (piano), Nadia Myerscough (violin) & Matthew Sharp (cello)]

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 30 March, 2007
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Purcell Room

The programme-note told us little of how the Dumas Trio came to be so called, nor of what brought these players together. Viv McLean is tall and broad-built, sturdy and reticent. He has the shoulders for giving the keys of the piano a mighty pounding. Nadia Myerscough is tall and slim. She plays coolly and reticently, but can display much intensity of emotion – though she cannot guarantee audibility. Matthew Sharp is the Dumas Trio’s Master of Ceremonies. He beamed exuberantly while introducing each of the works, arousing some warm chortles through his good humour. His playing was sweet and rich-toned.

Les Bergerettes are five pieces addressed to the “shepherdess”-pupil whom the already-married Martinů fell for in Paris in 1939. The pieces are sprightly and charming. Their gay inconsequentiality is a delight.

Balance was something of a problem, however. Each piece juxtaposes melody and boisterous Czech dance rhythms. In the first, the violin’s melody lost out to the piano’s rustic clumping. The piano had the melody in the second, so we lost sight of the peasant-dance routine. Violin and cello were engagingly to the fore in the third, the piano demure. The fourth gave the piano a striking intervention, recalling Petrushka. The fifth is a melee.

Catherine Kiernan’s Trio is short and finely wrought. There was some very fine playing from Myerscough and Sharp, either as a duo or playing in response to each other. McLean left the Czech village square and showed himself at home in polite society, where he deferred quite sedately to his fellow players. The first and last movements were lively and robust – presumably evoking the man himself (Nadia Myerscough’s late father, Clarence). The slow movement was hushed and poignant. A short phrase was passed from player to player, as if taking the dead man’s memory in the manner of a communion. Most sympathetically, the players took just the right amount of time to savour these moments expressively.

The Shostakovich – also written in memory of a full-of-life companion, Sharp reminded us – was a success. The opening had a breath-held magic. If doubt lingered as to whether these three players could perform as a true unity, they were dispelled here. They played as one – raucously and chaotically in the second movement, gravely and sonorously in the passacaglia, and in lively if somewhat well-mannered Jewish dancing for the Allegretto. Space was made for us to hear warm, singing cello solos from Sharp and impassioned outbursts from Myerscough’s violin. McLean’s piano triumphed – tenderly, securely and impressively. This was the open heart of a wounded Shostakovich, shocked by the sudden death of his captivating friend.

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