Piano Trio in B flat, Op.11
Piano Trio No.1 in B, Op.8
Trio Wanderer [Vincent Coq (piano), Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian (violin), Raphaël Pidoux (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 11 April, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
A gripe with which to start. Wigmore Hall takes great pride in its front-of house-responsibilities, performed with consistent excellence. It is a warm and welcoming environment, and there are polite requests to patrons about the need to switch off any technology that might bleep or disturb during a performance. These take the form of a programme-note and a ‘no phones’ board that stays in place on the platform until just before the performance. With this Lunchtime Concert relayed live on BBC Radio 3, presenter Fiona Talkington added a request of her own to silence any offending articles. Regulars to the Hall are generally respectful of the requests, with a wrongly placed cough or two as bad as it gets. However, twice in the last three weeks, a single person has flagrantly disrespected the performers by leaving their phone on a loud setting. So it was that during the slow movement of the Brahms – of all places – said person’s phone rang loudly, four times, before finally being silenced.
Thankfully this did not harm a passionate performance from Trio Wanderer of one of Brahms’s most overtly romantic chamber works, presented in its revision. Raphaël Pidoux presented the theme and its broad phrasing with a beautiful tone, and his chemistry with Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian was such that the piece surged forward with great intensity. Occasionally the violinist applied a thick tone, a touch on the sugary side when wide vibrato was also applied, but the intonation and ensemble of both was exceptional, given the relative difficulty of B major for string-players. Trio Wanderer’s interpretation of this sizeable structure successfully conveyed its journey from warmth to something altogether darker. These moods were glimpsed in a tense scherzo and slow movement, where despite the ring-tone a mood of profound stillness was attained. The nervousness of the finale’s main theme generated plenty of energy, violinist and cellist especially demonstrative while Vincent Coq picked his way carefully through the syncopated rhythms. The obstinate closing pages were given under a cloud, obdurate and straight-faced, to complete a performance of powerful impact.
The Brahms contrasted with Beethoven’s exuberance, his Opus 11 Trio originally written with clarinet but working equally well in the composer’s revision for conventional piano trio. The spiky humour of the first movement was relished by the musicians, though the Theme and Variations took the performance up a notch, each commentary strongly characterised and performed with great virtuosity. Early Beethoven featured in the generous encore, too, a helter-skelter rendition of the finale of his G major Piano Trio (the second of the Opus 1 works), its theme containing an uncanny anticipation of Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture.