Kavakos, Tamestit, Capuçon & Lugansky

String Trio
Journey to Eisenstadt [World premiere]
Piano Trio in A minor, Op.50

Leonidas Kavakos (violin), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Gautier Capuçon (cello) & Nikolai Lugansky (piano)

Reviewed by: Richard Landau

Reviewed: 1 December, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Leonidas Kavakos. Photograph: Yannis BourniasThis turned out to be an evening of heartfelt music-making.

The recital opened with Alfred Schnittke’s String Trio (1985), written at a time when the composer’s health was beginning seriously to deteriorate. The opening five-note phrase recurs in various guises throughout the two movements, which together last just under half an hour. For most of this time the prevalent mood is one of extreme sadness and despair, very occasionally punctuated by brief frenzied episodes. These suggest huge anxiety, panic even, at the prospect of death. But at the end of the work – when the theme makes its final appearance – the mood is one of resignation.

Gautier CapuçonLeonidas Kavakos, Antoine Tamestit and Gautier Capuçon played most expressively, not only achieving a miraculous blend of sound, but managing quite seamlessly to link the various episodes. A stunning example of the affinity between the players was the sul ponticello section two-thirds of the way through the first movement: this was enough to freeze the blood.

The second half of the concert began with Rodion Shchedrin’s Journey to Eisenstadt (2009) which is dedicated to Kavakos who was partnered by Nikolai Lugansky. This five-minute duo does not include any direct quotes from Haydn – albeit wisps of his style may be discerned – but it has several witty touches, one of them quite blatant. It could well prove popular as an encore.

After that interlude, Lugansky, Kavakos, and Capuçon gave a quite exceptional performance of the Piano Trio that Tchaikovsky wrote in memory of Nikolai Rubinstein. The musicians played with captivating ardour and perfectly captured the wide variety of moods of the first movement, with great depth of feeling unleashed in the adagio con duolo where the tribute to Rubinstein is most emphatic. The Theme of the second movement was beautifully enunciated by Lugansky, after which the succeeding Variations presented a flow of delight. So zestfully was the Finale delivered that this memorial work was transmuted into a glorious affirmation of life itself.

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