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<<  -- 3 --  Malcolm Miller    STYLES OF OUR TIME


The stylistic contrast with Dodgson's Trio No 3, here receiving its world première, was striking. As the composer's note explained, the initial ideas evolved firstly into a Violin Sonata, and only then into a Trio. Yet it is texture and rhythm that emerge as the most distinctive elements of this three-movement work. Certainly there is a zest and syncopated energy in the first two movements, and conclusion of the last, slow movement, which is even more marked than the earlier work. This is coupled with an abruptly changing surface, a blend of hesitancy and impulsiveness that sets the listener on edge. Material reminiscent of the lyrical yearning of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, harmonies evocative of Copland or Britten proceed apace, only to switch into a new idea or allusion. In that respect, the music is allusive, yet distinctive in its syntax. Colour and texture strive for continuity amongst the discontinuities, and it is the very act of change itself which keeps the discourse alert. Gestural connections between first and Scherzo-esque second movements are less important than the ethos of these movements, which lead to the contemplative breadth of the finale ('Lingering but intense'). In this movement Dodgson's predilection for variation form enables the theme an expansive, pensive freedom before intensifying towards the more familiar effervescence with which, somewhat wittily in a final perfect cadence, it concludes. Overall the piece displays contrasts with the earlier work: far greater fluidity and a tamer harmonic edge, and, if somewhat less dramatic, it is more rhythmically energized and varied; yet the elegant, sometimes elusive discontinuities articulate Dodgson's distinctive voice.

Beethoven's Ghost Trio, which concluded the evening with panache, is far removed from the classical poise of the Op 1 trios, yet imbued with similar drive and logic. It is a masterpiece full of surprises, the unexpected progressions of the codas to the first and last movements being cases in point. In this rendition the glistening textures and pearl like runs, the piano's even tone in scalic passagework in the central movement and final movements, the sheer ebullience and drama of the arresting themes of the first movement, and again the drama of the development, all came across with incisive intensity. Bernard Roberts's firm yet warm touch, always responsive to the dynamics of the ensemble, created a fluctuating, ever-engaging balance. The interplay in the Largo Assai was especially memorable, with Andrew and Nicholas exchanging string gestures with the piano's theme, later to be reversed in the concluding section, where there was a mellow warmth to the cello's solo melody. The delicacy of the final pizzicato section, played with enthralling luminescence, underlined the modernistic quality of Beethoven's chamber music, a quality that inspires, as if in a perennial première, ever fresh interpretations.

Copyright © 9 October 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK







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