YCAT concert at Wigmore Hall: Robert Thompson and friends – Schumann’s Papillons & Schubert’s Trout Quintet

Papillons, Op.2
Quintet in A for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass, D667 (Trout)

Robert Thompson (piano) with Bartosz Woroch (violin), Simone van der Giessen (viola), Philip Higham (cello) & Graham Mitchell (double bass)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 5 February, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Robert Thompson. Photograph: Benjamin HarteThere was an early spring feel to this lunchtime concert, both in the choice of music and its execution. The performers are all members of the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT). Robert Thompson began with a lightly textured account of Schumann’s early collection of twelve character pieces, Papillons, and successfully captured the mysterious nature of these brief but poignant utterances. There was a nice sense of give and take in the opening waltz, the octaves crisp and clear, while the sixth piece, also a waltz, showed Thompson could be more authoritative if required. The penultimate piece, a Polonaise, was rushed, with some definition lost in the middle parts, but Thompson kept a nice playful sense of humour running through the performance, with subtle rubato applied instinctively.

An engrossing and most enjoyable performance of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet followed, its melodies brought to life with a youthful zest that reminded of Schubert’s age when he composed it, a mere 22 years old. There was a potential problem with the seating arrangement, double bassist Graham Mitchell placed behind the cello in a position that looked set to harm not just communication with the rest of the group but his sound projection. In the event, the musicians performed with commendable balance. There was an enjoyable bounce to the faster music, helped by an impressive rhythmic togetherness and unity of phrasing. Bartosz Woroch applied an attractively sweet tone to the violin melody of the slow movement, and this was immediately followed by an equally enjoyable duet between Simone van der Giessen’s viola and Philip Higham’s cello. There were also some nice flourishes given to the unison melody of the scherzo. Only in the ‘Theme and Variations’ was there a hint of clutter, with the chosen speed for the first commentary taxing Thompson in the left-hand trills. Elsewhere there was impressively clarity to his fortissimo playing, which was never too dominant. Thus the musicians brought the ‘Trout’ to a resounding and upbeat conclusion – truly music with a smile on its face.

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