Leopold String Trio – 1

Suite in A
50 Shades of Green – A Jungle Picture for String Trio
String Trio in G minor
Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor, Op.15

Leopold String Trio [Marianne Thorsen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola) & Kate Gould (cello)]

Pascal Rogé (piano)

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 23 November, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Concerts containing unfamiliar repertoire can spring surprises. The first part of the Leopold Trio’s recital included two works by one of the greatest masters of the orchestra, Jean Sibelius, and another by contemporary composer, Judith Bingham.

It is now known that the young Sibelius produced copious chamber works before embarking on his chosen métier of orchestral music. The Suite of 1889 contains no great surprises or pretensions, but the invention (particularly in the Andante) displays a gift for long-spun melody that is a feature of many of his works from this period. Some four years later, with two string quartets and a big piano quintet (premiered by Busoni) to his credit, Sibelius wrote his final chamber piece from this early period, the astonishing String Trio, an unfinished work in one Lento movement. Sibelius discovers here the personality that is associated with his orchestral scores. The opening is breathtaking in its studied audacity, and the monumental theme that follows has all the strength of character associated with Sibelius’s unnumbered ‘symphony’ “Kullervo”. Sibelius would write only one more chamber work, twenty years later, the string quartet ‘Voces Intimae’.

Judith Bingham’s ‘50 Shades of Green – A Jungle Picture for String Trio’ is based on “Forest Landscape with Setting Sun” by Henri Rousseau and shows a cunning ability to write figurative music that never becomes kitsch. Adopting a conservative musical language, the work has extra-musical moments, such as tapping on wood – more to strengthen the imagery rather than create an abstract effect. ’50 Shades’ deserves a place in the repertoire.

Fauré’s Piano Quartet No.1 was the concert’s main course. Is there a more adorable piano quartet than this? With an abundance of memorable ideas and a constant flow of bewitching sonorities it never fails to stir the listener.

Throughout, the Leopold Trio played as to the manner born; each work was lovingly tendered with elegance and refinement. If Pascal Rogé’s tone seemed to harden and obscure the strings above forte it was, perhaps, because the piano lid was fully open. It was also a little disconcerting to see the pianist face one way and the trio another. Surely such a work demands the closest contact, both with eye and finger, between the players? But this piece always impresses and the musicianship ensured rousing applause.

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