Isabelle Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras & Alexander Melnikov at Wigmore Hall

Piano Trio in D, HobXV:24
Piano Trio in F minor, Op.65

Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello) & Alexander Melnikov (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 29 October, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Isabelle Faust. Photograph: Felix BroedeWhen three established soloists team up to perform chamber music, the results can often be individually rather than collectively wrought. This was emphatically not the case in this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert, a trio of musicians well integrated in the art of ensemble playing, and who know each other’s musical habits very well.

They began with Haydn, notable for its delicacy of touch throughout, with a striking clarity in the melodic line from Alexander Melnikov in particular, and a deep sense of musical intimacy between the players. Just occasionally the brakes were applied a little heavily to the tempo for expressive purposes, but the musicians were completely united in thought. They were careful, too, not to project too much, so that fortissimo passages were rare but packed more of a punch, and we were leaning forward in our seats to hear more. The finale was the best of the three movements, taking Haydn’s dolce marking literally to produce music of a sweet and graceful nature.

Alexander Melnikov. Photograph: Martin LengemannThese players have lived with the Dvořák for many years. Again the delicacy in much of their performance was striking, for the F minor Piano Trio is one of the composer’s sternest works. There was a keen sense of strife in the first movement, yet difference in volume was not the primary means of expression. Instead Isabelle Faust and Jean-Guihen Queyras employed carefully prepared changes to their vibrato, so that some notes were lean and completely bare, while others benefitted from more expression. This proved an extremely effective tactic in the development section of the first movement, where the arguments became especially fraught, and in the scherzo, which took the Allegretto grazioso marking literally. It was almost impossible not to liken the persuasive, lilting triple-time rhythms to the motion of a boat.

Jean-Guihen Queyras. Photograph: Yoshinori MidoQueyras came in to his own in the slow movement, and his broad theme was answered by some exceptional high register playing from Faust in the central section, while in the coda the musicians were keen to stress the melodic dissonances, avoiding thoughts of a resolution to the last possible moment. This approach typified the finale, too, where we had the loudest music of the concert, and the tension between the keys of F minor and F major threatened to spill over, Dvořák keeping his audience guessing at the eventual outcome. The resolution, when it came, was powerfully delivered. Complementing an intense emotional experience was the relative balm of the third movement of Schumann’s F major Piano Trio (Opus 80), given with delicacy and a hint of melancholy.

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