Concert review

Gould Piano Trio with Robert Plane (clarinet)

13th February 2023

The Gould Piano Trio made a welcome return to Penrith with clarinettist Robert Plane to entertain a large audience with a well devised programme of nineteenth century music. Musicians who unearth pieces by neglected composers have to be congratulated when they turn up with pieces that are well constructed and demonstrate appeal; this was certainly the case with the Trio in E flat op.44 for clarinet, cello and piano by the French composer Louise Farrenc (1804-75). She was a celebrated pianist and teacher and her early compositions were praised by Schumann. This four-movement Trio from 1861 was performed in great style: Robert Plane’s mellifluous clarinet tone, Richard Lester’s well projected cello and Benjamin Frith’s pianistic athleticism combined in a finely balanced performance. Mid -century romanticism was tinged with Schubertian turns of phrase and harmonies – music well worth revival.

Brahms’s Trio in C minor op.101 followed: the dramatic first movement full of zest, the more subdued Scherzo with muted strings – Brahms unusually reserved. The slow movement and finale were soulful and energized. Lucy Gould’s violin line always sang in the upper register and projected with sharp precision throughout the finale. Balance was always well managed – no problem for such experienced players.

Beethoven’s early Variations on a theme of Dittersdorf proved a fun piece from the opening statement of the theme in unison through the fourteen variations. The piano had the lion’s share but the violin and cello had their moments, particularly in the seventh variation when they took turns to sing the theme in the minor key – a welcome rest from the main hectic activity.

Walter Rabl (1873-1940) was born in Vienna and had an unusual musical career. He won a composition prize in 1896 for his Clarinet Quartet op.1, which brought praise from Brahms but from 1902 he abandoned composing to become a successful conductor. Its first performance in Penrith went well! Clearly indebted to Brahms, the music received a committed performance from four highly talented musicians and showed how well the combination of clarinet with piano trio works. The audience left with memories of two interesting but previously unknown composers.

John Upson

Updated on 10th April 2024
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