Sonata No.1 in A minor for Violin and Piano, Op.105
Sonata No.1 in E minor for Cello and Piano, Op.38
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.63
Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello) & Helene Grimaud (piano)
Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter
Reviewed: 17 April, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
The Capuçon brothers, born in Chambery, regard themselves as French. Hélène Grimaud, born in Aix-en-Provence, regards herself as a Jewess of Sephardic and Berber extraction, happening to have been born in France.
Grimaud has an international name as a soloist. Her chamber music appearances are rare – though I had the pleasure of hearing her join members of the LSO in other Schumann and Brahms works almost two years ago at the Barbican.
Renaud Capuçon has the manner of a cultured bourgeois – his fair hair is short-cropped and his suit is light-brown, well-cut and carefully informal. Gautier has a rounder face, a loose-fitting light-grey suit and a bouncy shock of jet-black hair – the bohemian of the two. Renaud has made a name for himself on the international circuit, while Gautier, his younger by some five years, is catching up.
Schumann’s Violin Sonata was cool and poised, yet played at white heat. Renaud Capuçon especially entered into the romantic spirit of the piece. His playing was patrician and stylish, recalling Arthur Grumiaux’s. Responding to the work’s restless, somewhat detached romanticism and Capuçon ’s soft transparency, Grimaud played briskly but almost demurely, all the while accounting for Schumann’s glancing nuances.
In Brahms’s sonata, Gautier Capuçon sank into his cello as if giving an old friend a bear-hug, producing thereafter a rich warm sound. Grimaud followed suit. The swelling romanticism of the first movement is more assertive than Schumann’s – richer and more robust. The second movement, designated an ‘as-if’ minuet, was an object-lesson in how to play Brahms lightly. The Bach-like finale had true grandeur, ceremonial and processional.
Schumann’s D minor Piano Trio is alert and vital, but no match for the Brahms. The vigour of the first two movements of fully-formed themes and suggestions of more; the harmonies are frequently arresting and unexpected. I was not entirely sure that the three players knew each other well enough for their playing to fall into a single shape.
This did happen, however, when we reached the movement marked ‘Langsam, mit inniger Empfindung’. Here was combined purpose in execution, in dedication to Schumann’s strong yet delicate and melancholic sensibility. This unity continued brilliantly in the incisive drama and vitality of the ‘Mit Feuer’ finale – where, faster and ever faster, all three players gave brilliant colour and shape to a disciplined stampede of a climax. It was a resilient and invigorating finish to a concert in which virtually every moment shone.