Marvellous music at St Andrew’s Schubert festival: The Trout and Notturno in E flat

‘The Ripple Effect’

Schubert: Piano Trio ‘Notturno’, D.897                   `
Piano Quintet in A ‘The Trout’, D.667

Anna van der Zee (violin), Chris van der Zee (viola), Jane Young (cello), Richard Hardie (double bass), Rachel Thomson (piano)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Saturday 4 June, 3pm

This was the second concert in the enterprising ‘Schubert at St. Andrew’s’ series over Queen’s Birthday weekend, organized by Marjan van Waardenberg and Richard Greager. Not as many people attended this concert as compared with the well-filled church on Friday evening, but it was still a respectably-sized audience.

The name ‘Ripple Effect’ was appropriate not only for the ‘Trout’ Quintet, but also for the ‘Notturno’ one-movement trio (violin, cello and piano), which opened with beautiful ripples on the piano. The plucking of the strings, too, has a watery feel, which made the work a good precursor to the famous quintet. The musicians played it with the utmost sensitivity to Schubert’s wonderful subtleties.

The dreamy opening of the ‘Trout’ features plucked notes on the double bass, providing a wonderful underpinning to the piano part in particular. Melody is tossed between the instruments in a most skillful but natural-sounding way. I sometimes found the highest notes on the violin rather metallic, at various points in the work. In Schubert’s day, all strings would have been made of gut, therefore the sound would have been less piercing.

The pianist has a very busy part. In fact, the work almost becomes a sextet, when the pianist’s two hands are taken into account.

In the first movement (allegro vivace), the piano often sets the theme, with the other instruments following. This movement ends triumphantly. The second movement (andante) opens with limpid beauty from the piano; again, this instrument leads the themes. Rachel Thomson performed her role superbly well, varying her tone and dynamics depending on whether she was leading or accompanying. The movement was full of rhythmic interest.

Outside, the sky was blue and the sunshine golden. The church interior is painted in these colours, and the music too was sunny, yet cool (in both senses of the word).   The movement ended calmly.

The scherzo third movement (presto – trio) was extremely lively, but its contrasting trio in the middle had poise and contemplation in its make-up, before the scherzo took over again, with vigour and élan.

Then we came to the movement (andantino) that gave the quintet its nickname, ‘Trout’. The theme was Schubert’s song of that name, upon which wondrous variations were based. The treatment of the theme is both delightful and innovative. One variation has the cello and double bass playing the theme while the piano ripples the water over their heads. Then an impassioned variation takes charge in a forte section. The cello’s solo variation is exceedingly beautiful, while the violin’s, in partnership with the viola, returns us to the original song, with piano accompaniment.

The fifth and final movement (allegro giusto) was indeed played with the required gusto, with great regard for the dynamics and with excellent cohesion. Various stormy winds blew in this movement, but the ensemble maintained itself. Throughout, the playing never lost its finesse, nor its onward drive.

The audience fully appreciated the marvellous music, and the musicality of those who performed it for us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *