Hermitage String Trio on their home territory for the Nelson festival

‘Hermitage Serenade’

Dohnanyi: Serenade in C, Op 10; Beethoven: Serenade in D, Op 8


Hermitage String Trio


St John’s Church, Nelson. Tuesday 8 February, 1pm


This was really the first display of the visiting trio of Russian players in the festival, though they had been very conspicuous as individuals in most of the earlier concerts.


Dohnanyi’s trio is a favourite piece in a repertoire that has not been much enlarged during the past century. There are five fairly brief movements, very distinct and dressed in attractive melody and compositional treatments. The players’ ever-changing and ear-catching articulation contributed, perhaps not really necessarily, to the entertainment.


The second movement began with a lovely viola tune against pizzicato violin and cello, unpretentious yet masterly and it was followed by a Scherzo that began as a sort of furious fugue with jazzy chromatic descents. It was a delightful performance of a work filled with the confidence that it was still possible for a composer to evince in the first decade of the 20th century. And it was a splendid example of the impact of players of the top rank with absolutely secure intonation and unity of purpose.


Beethoven’s Op 8 Serenade is a work deriving from a similar period of optimism and self-confidence – the period of the French revoution when much of Europe was optimistic about its promise to bring freedom to the peoples of many repressive and absolutist states in Europe – Beethoven, like most thinkers and artists, had great hopes of political progress during the first years of Napoleon’s rule; furthermore, it was before the onset of his deafness.


This piece sounds little like the Beethoven of a few years later; in fact Boccherini is a composer that might come to mind if you were hearing it unannounced, though it is more colourful, energetic, filled with better tunes than most of Boccherini. The next guess would be Haydn, for the many curious turns of phrase, sudden changes of pace, of key, of false starts and stops. There are seven shortish movements, like the serenades of his predecessors, Haydn and Mozart. In the last movement, Marcia da capo, there’s quite a long pause at an unexpected point, and then its resumption as if nothing had happened, only to end with an unresolved cadence.


The two delightful works made for an ideal lunchtime concert on a sunny Nelson day.


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