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Drama and Bite

A concert by the Op 3 piano trio,
reviewed by MALCOLM MILLER


Music from Beethoven to Britten, interspersed by Ysaÿe and Dvorák, formed the stimulating programme given by Op 3, a piano trio of Christopher White, violin, Melanie Reinhard, piano and Jane Odriozola, cello, in the elegant, historic surrounds of the Great Chamber at the Charterhouse in central London UK, on 2 October 2008. The venue is one of London's most splendidly adorned, with Medieval wall tapestries, ornate window frames and gold-rimmed ceiling designs, while its acoustic is generous and offers just the right ambience for chamber music.

Beethoven's Violin Sonata in A Op 30 had plenty of drama and bite in the first movement, eloquent dialogues between Reinhard's delicate pianism and White's silvery violin tone, especially in the inwardly mellow slow movement, followed by their raw energy in the folkish finale, with its ostinato patterns taken in racy frenetic figurations.

Op 3's presentations are enhanced by their friendly introductions, and the cellist spoke about Britten's solo Suite No 1, describing its narrative sequence of 'Canto' soliloquies, its use of irony and influences from Bach to Debussy. Odriozola (a former student of Jacqueline Du Pré) played the work with an involving sense of sonority, imbuing each gesture with meaning. The initial polyphony of the Canto with its dissonance shifting around referential pitches drew great expression. Then the fugue took flight with its trilling leaping motif, the syncopated rhythms maintained until the following movement's delicate sostenuto. The playful pizzicato reminded one of Debussy, yet enriched with Britten's innate sense of theatre and timing, evident especially in the martial rhythms and imitations of fife (bell-like harmonics) and drums (the repeated ostinato fragments).

Odriozola made much of the contrast of the Canto here with the evocative return to the rhythmic section ending with its high fanfare in flute-like harmonics. The Bordone's drone was hauntingly full of suspense and the sinewy melodies wound around it, finally moving to a different ironic tune. The Moto perpetuo Finale was fizzing, interrupted by the 'Canto' stridently uttered in polyphony. Throughout, one could picture Rostropovich himself playing. It must have suited his style, imbuing each gesture with piquant character. Odriozola projected it with impressive individuality and variety of tone, making a memorable reading of this fantastic work.

After the interval the contrast of style and medium continued in Ysaÿe's solo violin sonata, which Christopher White played with romantic passion and warmth; the chromatic melodies unfolded with soaring lyricism, and the final section came across with stunning impetus, the rapid Bachian passagework giving way to the cadenza-like chordal conclusion.

The long awaited combination of all three players took place in the final work, Dvorák's 'Dumky' trio, in many ways the highlight of the concert. Here the glowing tone and finely articulated textures were ravishing, Schubertian pathos and poetry caught beautifully in the framing introductions and epilogues to the swirling and Slavonic dances that form the basis of each of the six movements. The thick texture of violin and cello was telling, and the piano added its glowing melodic layer and power; each dance had its character, and was played with plenty of panache and intensity.

The audience's enthusiasm was well deserved: one hopes for a chance to hear Op 3 again soon at a major London venue.

Copyright © 15 October 2008 Malcolm Miller, London UK



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