Vienna Piano Trio at Wigmore Hall [Haydn, Schubert & Shostakovich]

Piano Trio in E flat, Hob XV:29
Notturno in E flat, D897
Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67

Vienna Piano Trio [Stefan Mendl (piano), Wolfgang Redik (violin) & Matthias Gredler (cello)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 7 November, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Vienna Piano Trio. ©Gabriele KochThe Vienna Piano Trio plays Haydn instinctively well, and the musicians’ springy account of his E flat Trio began an attractive BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall, the composer delighting in dispensing with the rulebook, working the first movement to a form midway between Variations and Rondo without ever losing the thread of his invention. The Vienna players phrased these tunes most attractively, keeping their poise and communicating strongly throughout. There were colourful deviations during the first movement, while the finale was a genuine Presto. The central Andante responded well to Stefan Mendl’s fresh tone and affectionate delivery. There followed a welcome performance of Schubert’s Notturno, flowing nicely from finely voiced harmonies to a turbulent middle section.

There were some interpretative curiosities in the Shostakovich, but none that marred the overall impact of one of the 20th-century’s most original and powerful pieces. The opening, so often able to chill the bones, was surprisingly warm here, the string-players using vibrato. For Matthias Gredler’s cello this lent a curious quality to his harmonics, while for Wolfgang Redik the thicker sound was almost comforting – not a description one expects to use for the start of this piece. There was however some considerable dramatic tension, and the scherzo was rough and ragged, note definition sacrificed for aggression, a point made when Redik had to re-tune when the movement had finished. This approach, notably on the edge, was underlined by Stefan Mendl’s stern delivery of the slow movement’s passacaglia theme; gradually the baton passed to the macabre march of the Allegretto finale, dynamic contrasts brilliantly done, though the tempo appeared to increase too much too soon. Mendl’s crushing blows in the crowning tutti passage were heavy indeed – the music here is written on four staves the piano having so many notes – but perfectly valid approach once the brakes had been applied, the music all the more profound when returned to its Allegretto starting point. Resolution was found – and rightly there was no encore.

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