Nikau Trio: flute, oboe and cello, at Old St Paul’s

Boismortier, Joseph Bodin de (1689-1755): Trio in A minor (allegro, adagio, allegro)
Schubert: Adagio from Octet in F major, Op. 166
Beethoven: Duo no. 2 in F major (allegro, larghetto, allegro moderato)
Bach: Trio sonata in G major (adagio, allegro ma non presto, adagio e piano, presto)
Haydn: Trio no.3 in G major (spiritoso, andante, allegro)

Nikau Trio: Karen Batten (flute), Madeline Sakofsky (oboe), Margaret Guldborg (cello)

Old St. Paul’s,Mulgrave Stree

Tuesday, 12 July, 12.15 pm

A well-attended lunchtime concert on Tuesday heard a surprisingly comprehensive programme for an unusual combination of instruments. It began with a composer I had never heard of, who, according to the programme note, ‘wrote mainly instrumental and vocal music deliberately in a style that would please the listener and ensure his own wealth and success.’

Certainly it was attractive music. The first movement commenced with the flute and oboe doubling parts. This led to a lively and tuneful allegro. The adagio was perhaps a typical baroque slow movement, featuring delicious chords and suspensions. The final movement was fast and quite demanding, especially on the flutist. This work proved the Nikau Trio to be a very pleasing combination, each player having beautiful tone.

Next came one of Schubert’s gorgeous slow movements. At first, it featured oboe, with the others playing sotto voce. But as it progressed, there was not a lot of dynamic variation. As in some of Schubert’s orchestral works, there were rather too many repeats, and the movement outstays its welcome. However, there was a lovely flute and oboe passage, the cello entering at the end, as a kind of fulfilment of promise.

What followed was a duo for oboe and cello ostensibly, yet doubtfully, by Beethoven. (No such duos appear in the list of works by Beethoven in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.) Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly delightful piece. There was more variation of dynamics and expression in this work. The larghetto, entitled Aria, was in a minor key, while the allegro moderato final movement, Rondo, contained a lovely rubato with all the players absolutely together; as elsewhere, ensemble was immaculate.

The trio sonata was Bach at his contrapuntal best, weaving the parts into and through each other. The solo oboe passages, with the other players accompanying, were particularly fine. The final presto movement was pretty exacting, such was its speed.

The final work by good ol’ cheerful Papa Haydn was a splendid way to end the concert, with a final allegro that demonstrated his humour and sense of fun. The master used the instruments imaginatively, producing a jolly result. I couldn’t help thinking, though, that the more mellow sound of the wooden flute would blend better with the other two instruments and with the admirable acoustic of the wooden church interior.

The fluidity of the flute, the piquancy of the oboe and the majestic smoothness of the cello made for great enjoyment of this rare admixture.

A programme of two baroque works, two classical and one early Romantic work was quite an achievement, but perhaps the introduction of one modern piece might have been good, as a contrast. The printed programme notes were brief but informative; it is a pity that those for both Beethoven and Bach were marred by misrelated clauses.

Presumably the building work going on in the grounds of Old St. Paul’s was being done for the historic church, so surely the intermittent hammering could have been stopped the for the duration of the concert?