Piano Trio in B flat, Hob XV:20
Piano Trio in F minor, Op.65
Florestan Trio [Anthony Marwood (violin), Richard Lester (cello) & Susan Tomes (piano)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 14 March, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Dvořák’s F minor Piano Trio, his most substantial, has been part of the Florestan Trio’s repertoire for some time, and featured on its first recording made for Hyperion in 1996.
This performance, part of the BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert, suggested that the Florestan musicians continue to feel great affection for and affinity with a piece that relates closely to its composer’s Seventh Symphony. Dvořák had reached something of a stylistic crossroads, still composing fluently but having difficulty charting his next direction, whether it would be still under the influence of Brahms and Wagner, or something less derivative. The latter was the eventual outcome, as the American works testify, but the F minor Piano Trio captures these tensions, shot through with pure emotion and persuasive dance rhythms.
The scherzo in particular was attractively performed; Susan Tomes especially light in her touch, nimble on the beat as well as off, while the trio section found a more sweeping legato. The slow movement began in a state of bliss, with Richard Lester’s richly romantic cello solo, but began to show signs of strife as it progressed, with feelings running deep. The outer movements were gloriously full-bodied, the players enjoying close musical proximity. Tomes especially was the model of attentiveness as she listened closely to her colleagues.
More recently the Florestan ensemble has been looking at the ever-rewarding piano trios of Haydn, the composer to whom the form owes a great deal for his invention and innovation. The B flat example is genial if characteristically difficult to pin down. Here the unpredictability lay largely in the piano figurations, beautifully realised by Tomes in the unexpectedly low register of the second movement. The extrovert scales of the first movement were brilliantly virtuosic but kept an attractive weightlessness throughout, with the occasional piece of stylish rubato also complementary. The finale, too, was light-footed and fun for both musicians and audience.