London Mozart Trio at The Red Hedgehog

Trio in B flat, Op.97 (Archduke)
Trio Élégaique No.1 in G minor
Trio in D minor, Op.49

London Mozart Trio [Colin Stone (piano), Krzysztof Śmietana (violin) & Leonid Gorokhov (cello)]

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 4 October, 2007
Venue: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London N6

The London Mozart TrioThe highly-charged, dynamic and exhilarating London Mozart Trio brings together an Englishman, a Pole and a Russian who became a British citizen in 1998. It links teachers at the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Purcell and Guildhall Schools while – perhaps owing to its combination of Anglo-Saxon self-possession and Slavic fire – producing a fascinating, red-blooded sound, warmly full and robust.

Colin Stone puts the dynamic of his pellucid style at the service of his coolly Romantic sensibility. He plays with astonishing and commanding versatility. Krzysztof Śmietana coaxes his violin into making ravishing, lyrical sounds – rich and sweet-toned. In its upper register, his violin is dulcet, mellow, soaring and beguiling; in its lower register I heard the richness of a viola. Leonid Gorokhov plays his cello with solid, utterly reliable proficiency – a craftsman who seems to draw sound from the earth itself. Together, they generate the full, weighty sound of a miniature orchestra. In their hands, piano trios are monuments to reckon with.

The performances were of superb quality. The ‘Archduke’ was impassioned and magisterial. It had tremendous energy and drive; it had variety and subtlety – a glistening beauty, too. Beethoven, here, was dynamic and mercurial – vital and lithe. Tempos were finely-judged – forward-moving and restless, yet with time and space to sing. This is, surely, one of Beethoven’s most joyous works.

The Trio Élégaique was simple, eloquent and beautiful. In this work Rachmaninov, though still a student, showed already his power over sensuous and sensual melody – the mood of this single movement work is out-and-out Romantic, while the writing is careful and controlled. The Trio begins and ends with the same gorgeous, lyrical melody being handed from one instrument to the other, giving each player a solo spot to demonstrate his mettle. Stone, Śmietana and Gorokhov rose to the occasion.

The Mendelssohn Trio begins unexpectedly – a composer loved and renowned for exuberance and lightness of touch plunging into Sturm und Drang. The London Mozart Trio bit into this restless and darkly troubled side to Mendelssohn’s nature with searing zest. Some of the playing was suitably rough and tough. The ensuing scherzo and slow movement, though less fraught, were still disturbing. The finale is elegant and light, yet pointed and serious. Stone, Śmietana and Gorokhov caught the mood neatly, responding attentively to the various styles and yet presenting this original and at times disturbing work as a compositional unity.

The Red Hedgehog was packed, giving an electric buzz to this intimate venue. Investigating the acoustics, I chose to sit at the front, right by the cello, facing, on occasion, the full thunder of the piano. The balance was nevertheless admirable, the sound full and immediate.

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