Trio Jean Paul at Wigmore Hall

Piano Trio in F sharp minor, HXV:26
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.63

Trio Jean Paul [Eckart Heiligers (piano), Ulf Schneider (violin) & Martin Löhr (cello)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 8 December, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Trio Jean Paul. Photograph: Irene ZandelOne of Haydn’s darker piano trios opened this lunchtime recital by Trio Jean Paul. Haydn used the trio form to explore a range of keys scarcely used by his contemporaries. Indeed F sharp minor was used once only by Mozart and Beethoven – but what an impact it made, the former using it in the slow movement of his A major Piano Concerto (K488) , the latter employing it for the great ‘Hammerklavier’ Piano Sonata slow movement.

Haydn’s Trio received an appropriately mysterious performance of the first movement, as it groped round far-flung harmonic regions and oddly emphasised beats in the bar; the central section’s false dawn of optimism in the major key cut short by a firm finish in the minor. Though Trio Jean Paul had quite heavy textures at the end of this movement the clarity of line was secure throughout, whether in the slightly sunnier Adagio or the introverted finale.

Schumann also explores dark emotions in his D minor Piano Trio, coming as it does around the time of some rather black moods for him. Trio Jean Paul found depth in the slow movement; there was especially profound sadness to Ulf Schneider’s plaintive violin line.

With impressive gravitas to the scherzo, which developed rhythmic vitality as it pressed forward, the playing flowed well throughout and by the finale the musicians found a sense of conflict overcome, an initial empty triumph acquiring real substance. With a warmth not felt much in the previous movements, this gave a pleasing structure to the performance overall, which had immaculate ensemble throughout.

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