Sonata No.3 in D minor for Violin and Piano, Op.108
Piano Trio No.2 in C, Op.87
Piano Quartet No.2 in A, Op.26
Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gérard Caussé (viola), Gautier Capuçon (cello) & Nicholas Angelich (piano)
Reviewed by: Richard Landau
Reviewed: 18 February, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
In the second of their two Brahms recitals at Wigmore Hall this week, these musicians adjusted their playing to suit the acoustic of Wigmore Hall – in which music can often seem too loud – so that Brahms’s scores came across with a real sense of intimacy. And especially impressive was the manner in which the players responded so attentively to each other – to a degree, indeed, that verged on the symbiotic.
Brahms’s D minor Violin Sonata showed Renaud Capuçon and Nicholas Angelich to be a well-matched duo. In the first movement, after the violin’s sotto voce entry – which was notably subtle – both players found just the right levels of tenderness and passion. The tranquil Adagio offered further evidence of such empathy, the piano unobtrusively underpinning the rich and passionate tones of Capuçon’s Guarneri ‘Panette’. And, most satisfyingly, this heart-easing movement was presented in a single lyrical span. In the mercurial third movement, Un poco presto e con sentimento, where the pianist assumes a rather more prominent role, both players beautifully negotiated the shifting patterns of the music. And they showed themselves fully up to the extreme demands of the finale, which flowed inexorably towards its tumultuous conclusion.
Gautier Capuçon joined for the C major Piano Trio, playing on his 1701 Gofriller. Gautier’s tone is strikingly rich, but never at the expense of his partners. A high-point was the work’s slow movement, in which the interaction between pianist and string players was a joy, especially in the first variation, where Brahms sets rhapsodic piano-writing against pleading interjections from violin and cello. No less remarkable was the intensity of the playing in the lyrical and heart-easing trio of the scherzo.
In the A major Piano Quartet, Gérard Caussé’s contribution integrated perfectly with those of his colleagues. This work, which is over 50 minutes in duration, places considerable demands on the listener, and yet consistently refined musical qualities – plus the manner in which the inner parts were clarified – ensured that these musicians held our attention, not least in the exquisitely moulded second movement, Poco adagio, in which Angelich’s expressive delivery of the rippling piano part set off the rich string-writing to perfection.