Florestan Trio

Piano Trio in E flat, HXV:30
Elegie, Op.23
Piano Trio in G minor, Op.26

Florestan Trio [Anthony Marwood (violin), Richard Lester (cello) & Susan Tomes (piano)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 2 July, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

In his Master Musicians guide, Alec Robertson refers to Dvořák’s Opus 26 trio as “flat and undistinguished”, a sentiment completely at odds with the piece when performed as splendidly as this.

While the work captures the composer’s sense of loss in commemorating the death of his daughter at the tragically early age of just two days, it is not devoid of melodic invention. Nor does it spend too much time looking downwards, though there are deeply poignant moments in the Largo, captured here in Richard Lester’s sensitive delivery of the main theme.

Lester and Anthony Marwood executed the dramatic opening chords of the piece with the bow close to the string, a clean attack that went with the more legato material from Susan Tomes, whose treatment of the composer’s ornamented melodies was ideal.

The scherzo was taut, notably uneasy in its uneven phrasing but pressing forward with determined tread. There was room however for a dreamy trio section, slightly slower and utterly charming; the tricky closing bars of the scherzo were spot-on in rhythmical flexibility, with an upward sweep to finish.

The ‘elegiac’ theme had already been aired in the 7-minute gem of Josef Suk, Dvořák’s son-in-law, commemorating the Czech poet Julius Zeyer. The Florestan musicians had this weighted just right – the main theme’s dominance only occasionally challenged, once by a turbulent ensemble section and again by a softer major key interlude. Marwood gave out the theme passionately from the outset, while the reflective finish had a real sense of peace.

If Susan Tomes had lived in Haydn’s time it’s likely she would have had a piano trio written in her honour – after all, thirteen of the composer’s last fourteen works in the genre are dedicated to women pianists. The inheritor of this one, Margaret von Kurzböck, was a pupil of Clementi and clearly no slouch.

Tomes responded magnificently to the technical demands, projecting extremely well to the back of the hall but without dominating the texture more than was necessary. She clearly enjoyed the melodic abundance of her part, as did Marwood and Lester, who, rather than merely accompanying, came into their own in the unexpected minor key diversion in the finale. A hugely enjoyable performance took the Andante at a light jog, before playfully emphasising the syncopation of the closing bars.

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