Piano Trio in E flat, Op.1/1
Piano Trio No.2 in C minor, Op.66
Piano Trio in A minor, Op.50

Julia Fischer (violin), Daniel Müller-Schott (cello) & Jonathan Gilad (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 28 June, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Chamber groups may be divided into those that are active full-time and those who come together occasionally. This particular trio is something in between; each musician is primarily a soloist but the intention is that this is a long-term piano trio, one that will also record.

That Julia Fischer is involved might be considered recommendation enough. The important thing, though, is that there is equality and interaction. That challenge was more than met at this recital by three young musicians who enjoy and respect each other’s company. There was no hogging limelight – quite the reverse in Daniel Müller-Schott’s case (he was just a little too reticent in the Beethoven and Mendelssohn) – and a genuine shared experience was the result: solos were played with confidence and personality, and dialoguing was natural and meaningful.

Yet the opening Beethoven (which replaced the advertised Trio in C minor, Op.1/3) didn’t seem quite fully formed as an interpretation and proved something of an entrée to a long programme. The omission of repeats in the outer movements also undermined the breadth of the music, and only the slow movement emerged as fully engaging; measured and reposed. Throughout, Jonathan Gilad’s pianism stood out for its sparkling repartee and lack of mannerism.

The Mendelssohn moved the players’ achievements up several degrees, the highlight of the concert, not least for bringing to the, maybe unexpected, passion that lies in this work, the lesser-known of his two piano trios. Although less immediately attractive than the D minor (Op.49), it has claims to be the greater work. The agitated first movement caught the air immediately and, in the Andante espressivo, Gilad was once again an exemplar of keeping things simple, the musicians finding the heart of the music without really trying. The elfin scherzo leads to the heroic finale in which just the right amount of expressive leaning was in evidence; a fine sense of culmination ensued.

Tchaikovsky’s sole piano trio is somewhat unusual: maybe too long, rather lopsided but also full of memorable ideas and always worth hearing. At the opening Müller-Schott expanded his compass and immediately established the expanse of the work and all three musicians projected with the security of seasoned soloists. In particular the unrestrained emotion was organic and the strings’ duet against the piano’s tolling of funeral bells (or so it seemed here) was especially vivid. The second movement Theme and Variations was less successful despite each commentary (on a piano tune once again delivered with clarity by Gilad) being thoughtfully turned. It’s partly Tchaikovsky’s over-extended ambition, but here there wasn’t quite enough of an overview, something not helped by too long a pause at the moment that marks the start of ‘third movement’ – an ominous roll of thunder at this point made a higher deity’s view known, too!

One thing is certain: this is a group of equals for whom the music comes first. Hopefully their respective diaries will allow them to grow as an ensemble. For an encore, the slow movement of Mendelssohn’s ‘other’ trio was beautifully done. I wouldn’t mind betting that when these musicians’ debut recording is issued (on PentaTone), it will be of Mendelssohn – for this is the music they are most on top of.

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