Vienna Piano Trio – Schubert

Piano Trio in E flat, D929

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

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 28 April, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Vienna Piano Trio. ©Gabriele KochFollowing the harrowing “Schwanengesang” from Florian Boesch in the previous Monday’s Lunchtime Concert in the Wigmore Hall, the BBC kept up its examination of late Schubert with an altogether more upbeat work, the Piano Trio in E flat.

In programming it alone the members of Vienna Piano Trio allowed themselves plenty of time between movements, which helped give the music greater room. As it was, theirs was an expansive interpretation, with the finale on an even bigger scale with the inclusion of the exposition repeat.

The emotional heart of this performance, as with many others, was the slow movement and its adaptation of the Swedish folk song that Schubert assigns to the cello. Here Matthias Gredler was most responsive to its phrasing and his slightly restrained, mellow tone was ideal, complemented by a clipped accompaniment from Stefan Mendl that emphasised the march-like quality of the music.

This trio contains rather more obvious influences from Haydn and Beethoven than does its near neighbour (in B flat, D898), and these were brought forward in the ebullient unison with which the piece started. It took the Vienna Trio a little while to settle regarding phrasing, with Gredler in particular not completely fluent, but by the arrival of the development section the music was fully flexed, and each change of key was a discovery.

In the Scherzando, a classical minuet in all but name, Schubert asks the musicians that they play no more than p or pp. Here the dynamic was more mf, though the phrasing was particularly beautiful and the marked contrast with the louder, forceful trio was still achieved.

Gredler and Redik set the tone for the finale with the chirruping main subject. The movement continued in a relatively light mood, save for the initial return of the folk-tune, which became a progression from darkness to light. Gredler showed off some sparkling right-hand passagework in the secondary thematic group, and with the less-polite development placed fully in context the musicians had a firm grasp of the work’s large structure. That the return to the major key in the coda felt like such a victory was a testament to their investment of feeling for the previous three movements.

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