Trio Wanderer at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven’s Archduke Trio

Variations in E flat, Op.44
Piano Trio in B flat, Op.97 (Archduke)

Trio Wanderer [Vincent Coq (piano), Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian (violin) & Raphaël Pidoux (cello)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 25 June, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Trio Wanderer. Photograph: www.triowanderer.frThe members of Trio Wanderer are celebrating 25 years together. The pairing for this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert was a most attractive one, the humour of the Variations countered by the expanse of Beethoven’s most celebrated work for the piano trio medium.

The ‘Archduke’ received a brisk, energetic performance, notable for clarity and unity of ensemble. The continuous forward momentum was most evident at the junction between slow movement and finale, where Beethoven finds that rare timelessness, completely lost in thought in a distant tonal area. Trio Wanderer was keen to push on rather than savour this moment; as a result the musicians spilled over into the finale rather too hastily, later phrases rushed and lacking in wit.

With all that said there were many fine things in this performance. The unison playing between Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian and Raphaël Pidoux was extremely well-drilled, the players very clear about the direction in which they wanted the music to go. The scherzo was fun, its trio more than a little sinister with the strings’ creeping theme, while the first movement kept a regal air, capturing in its theme the overall scale of the piece.

The Opus 44 Variations is an early work, for despite their later publication they are contemporaneous with the set of three piano trios Beethoven published as Opus 1. Using a theme from Dittersdorf’s opera Das rote Käppchen, the commentaries are in E flat, a key commonly used by Beethoven in his early works. There was plenty of drollness on show here, with Vincent Coq particularly alive to the quick, scalic runs and clipped staccato passages that are effectively a series of asides. There were many musical smiles to be had.

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