Schubert’s B flat trio given beautiful performance at St Andrew’s at lunchtime

Koru Trio (Anne Loesser – violin, Sally Pollard – cello, Rachel Thomson – piano)

Schubert: Piano Trio in B flat, D 898

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 24 October, 12.15pm

This lunchtime concert had been advertised as consisting of movements from both Schubert’s B flat Trio and Shostakovich’s second piano trio, Op 67. In the event, the players decided to do a proper job with the Schubert and leave the Shostakovich till another time (well, I hope so). The playing of individual movements might be OK if the audience is of young people or others who have not heard a work before, to offer a taster; but one is left in an empty space when the sounds one expects to hear in a following movement just don’t come.

All are players in the NZSO, forming another group that illustrates one of the sometimes overlooked benefits to Wellington of the orchestra’s domicile in the city.

Just by the way, there were two other contributions to the city’s rich music scene this week: bolstering orchestral groups that have certain weaknesses, usually in the brass or woodwind departments. One was the weekend concert by the Wellington Youth Orchestra, playing Brahms’s Fourth Symphony and Berlioz’s Nuits d’été (quite splendid performances they were!); and on Tuesday this week, to help the orchestra of the Lawyers in their ‘Counsel in Concert’.

Schubert’s two piano trios are, for most people, the loveliest and greatest of pieces in that repertoire, perhaps equalled by Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, and any performance is approached with a certain awe and excitement. The three players’ credentials were encouraging, and their performances proved their command of not just the notes but of Schubert’s overflowing imagination that these two trios give such vivid evidence of.

What made their performance so satisfying was their sensitivity to the varying dynamics and rhythms that sustain the repetitions of the themes with interest; we never heard a plain repetition but fresh light on the idea each time it reappeared.  It was not simply a matter of playing loud or soft, but of finding a darker or lighter emotion, at places where we are persuaded that Schubert had wanted the music to reflect pain or joy. Schubert’s music is almost the antithesis of the virtuoso showpiece, yet the cello solo near the end of the first movement, though not the least self-serving, was quite beautifully played.

The contrasts of light and shade were again the secret to the moving performance of the Andante. It was the Trio, middle section, of the Scherzo that I found most striking in that movement, where the players found a remarkable stillness through the repeated pairs of quavers.

The Finale was revelatory, as if it was being played for the first time, with some kind of hesitancy towards the end of the exposition, engendering surprise at the direction of modulations which turned them into little mysteries, the violin’s extended handing of a tune, suspended in time, and in the Coda, the spirit of a moto perpetuo.

What a delight it is for the tens of thousands of Wellingtonians (particularly the legions of cultivated public servants nearby who can seek to recover their spirits and sanity during their lunchtimes) who have the opportunity to hear such marvellous music as this, week after week, for nothing more than a small donation; and taken advantage of so worshipfully by such a happy few.



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