Leopold String Trio – 4

String Trio in D, Op.9/2
String Trio
String Quartet No.2 in A minor, Op.35 [for violin, viola and two cellos]

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

Natalie Clein (cello)

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 11 March, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Leopold String Trio has built a reputation for performing rare repertoire alongside familiar classics, not only for string trio but also for expanded ensemble.

One such instance was this concert in which cellist Natalie Clein joined the Leopold Trio for an outstanding performance of Arensky’s Quartet No.2. This unusually scored work may be rarely heard but its middle movement, Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky, is perhaps Arensky’s best known work in its guise for string orchestra.

Arensky is one of those composers on the fringe of the Russian romantics whose music is well wrought and entirely typical of its milieu. Hence the Quartet has a sombre and very slow introduction followed by a faster yet dark-hued first movement which has a gorgeous, lyrical second subject. The Variations were probably Arensky’s tribute to his mentor, Tchaikovsky, whose death inspired the quartet. The finale contains an extraordinary juxtaposition between an Orthodox liturgical melody and fugal treatment of a cheerful folksong. The mixture contains a certain academic approach to two such different musical formats but the joyous close carries all before it.

The same cannot be said of Sofia Gubaidulina’s String Trio (1988) which contains too many effects and not enough music – despite a finale which at last gets to grips with material worthy of development. Gubaidulina is highly regarded in some quarters, but on the evidence of a work like this it is maybe for her unusual treatment of tones in isolation than for any originality in the overall handling of such. That being said, this fine performance gave the work its best possible chance for projection into our minds, although it remained a difficult work to make much sense of.

The opening of the recital found Beethoven in youthful and dramatic mode, examining the potential and complexities of the string trio medium. The Leopold’s performance exhibited a joy and freedom of expression and the necessary energy and panache to demonstrate an extraordinary compositional imagination coming to grips with this combination of instruments.

  • The Leopold Trio returns to the Wigmore Hall in November
  • Wigmore Hall

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