Leopold String Trio – 9

Phantasy Quartet, Op.2
String Trio
Cantata (Triptych, part 3), Op.15
String Trio in E flat, Op.3

Leopold String Trio [Isabelle van Keulen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola) & Kate Gould (cello)]

Nicholas Daniel (oboe)

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 19 October, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Leopold String Trio. Photograph: Benjamin EalovegaOn the basis of this concert (the first of two featuring British music and pieces by Beethoven and continuing the group’s long-running Wigmore Hall series) I am more than prepared to believe that the Leopold String Trio is the finest such ensemble currently before the public.

Made up of three of the most gifted young players of their generation, musically and technically their individual and corporate understanding and projection of this varied programme were exemplary. It was clear, from the very opening bars of Britten’s early masterpiece, that we were in for some outstanding music-making. Having produced a commercial record of the work myself, I thought I knew this score intimately, but this account was a revelation: such belief and commitment on the part of each player was truly exceptional.

William Alwyn’s String Trio of 1959 followed, and – astonishingly – there was no loss of interest or attention, for this sadly neglected work has to be, on this showing, the finest string trio by a British composer. The medium is arguably the most difficult for any composer to tackle, but Alwyn (with one exception, the cello’s tremolando in the first movement) grasped this particular nettle with astonishing skill. The work is a masterpiece; and certainly sounded so on this occasion.

Nicholas Daniel returned for Knussen’s Cantata, for oboe and string trio, but this is a more conventional piece of writing, lacking distinctive creative character and a convincing structure despite the players’ commitment.

After the interval, a magnificent performance of Beethoven’s early E flat Trio brought the evening to a stimulating conclusion. The Wigmore Hall was about 75 percent full, but playing of this high quality demanded a sell-out.

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